Friday, September 30, 2011

Northern Ireland church abuse inquiry announced

The Irish Times
Sept. 29, 2011

A major inquiry into the abuse of children in institutions run by the Catholic Church and the state is to be launched in Northern Ireland, it was announced today.

The Stormont Executive confirmed the investigation will be phased-in over the next two years and will be armed with the power to compel the release of records plus the cooperation of witnesses.

First Minister Peter Robinson and acting deputy First Minister John O’Dowd announced the details of the plan, which follows a study of the issue by a task force set-up last December.

Victims of sexual and physical abuse have recounted harrowing tales of their treatment. The
Northern Ireland government’s plan of action follows a series of inquiries in the Republic which have uncovered shocking evidence of widespread abuse by Catholic clergy.

The Northern Ireland inquiry will require special legislation to provide the statutory powers
needed to investigate historic cases of abuse.

And while it is estimated it could take two years to pass the necessary legal framework, the
Stormont leaders have also announced immediate steps.

Full article at The Irish Times

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Diocese's Finn and Murphy appear before grand jury

The Kansas City Star
Sept. 27, 2011
The landscape of the diocese’s legal issues broadened significantly Tuesday as its two top clerics testified before a Clay County grand jury focusing on child sexual abuse issues.
Bishop Robert Finn and Monsignor Robert Murphy spent more than six hours before a grand jury in Liberty. Both also have testified before a similar panel in Jackson County in recent weeks.
Murphy, the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese’s vicar general and second-in-command, has come under fire since May for his management of questions surrounding the Rev. Shawn Ratigan. Ratigan is facing child pornography charges in Clay County and federal court.
Flanked by two lawyers, Murphy entered the Clay County Courthouse just before 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. It’s not clear when Finn entered the courthouse, but he left at about 3 p.m. accompanied by his lawyers. They declined comment.
But Murphy’s lawyer, Brian Gaddy, said, “Monsignor Murphy has fully cooperated and will continue to fully cooperate with the authorities in this case.”
He added, however, “we cannot comment on the specifics of his court appearance today.”
Finn and Murphy’s appearances marked their second known grand jury appearance in two months. Both were earlier called before a Jackson County grand jury believed to be exploring similar issues.
Meanwhile, federal prosecutors have said their investigation into the Ratigan case is “ongoing.”
Finn named Murphy vicar general when Finn took over the diocese’s leadership in 2005. Until recently, Murphy had handled the diocese’s sex abuse complaints against priests and was on a diocesan review board that assessed allegations against priests and made recommendations to the bishop.
In June, Finn removed Murphy from that role after The Kansas City Star reported that he had been accused of past sexual improprieties. Finn has said those allegations were unfounded.
Murphy continues to be responsible for general administration, directly supervising chancery employees and serving on diocesan boards and committees. Murphy also remains as pastor of St. Bridget Parish in Pleasant Hill.
At least five top diocesan administrators and advisers have appeared before state grand juries in recent weeks.
A recent internal investigation showed that church officials knew for five months about troubling photos of young girls on Ratigan’s computer but did not notify police or state child abuse authorities.
Under Missouri law, clergy must report any suspected child abuse.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Outspoken nun Joan Chittister visits Chicago for Benedictine Sisters’ 150th anniversary

Katie Drews
Chicago Catholic
Sept. 26, 2011

One hundred fifty years ago three young nuns from Pennsylvania rode the Lake Shore Michigan train to Chicago, sent to teach children of German immigrants.


In honor of their anniversary, the community hosted Sister Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun from Pennsylvania and internationally known writer and speaker. Chittister often addresses contemporary social justice issues of peace and equality, and she is a staunch advocate for women’s rights, both in the Church and in society. She once went against a request from the Vatican to speak at a women’s ordination conference in Dublin.


In facing today’s struggles in the Church – and in the world — Chittister (pictured) challenged laity to form “radical Christian communities” rather than remain “fossils of a bygone reality.”

“Now we need new wisdom and new actions to become what we must be if we are really to be a spiritual people in these changing times,” she said. “And our choices are clear: we can go forward again, … or we can go backwards in an attempt to maintain what we know better but which we also know is already long gone.”

She added, quoting author John Gardner, “The last act of a dying institution is to get out a new edition of its rule book.”

Drawing on the roots of the Sisters, Chittister explained that St. Benedict laid a foundation that today’s Christians should model. Through creativity and adaptation, St. Benedict started a movement in the sixth century that was grounded in the people.

Following his example, people today should develop communities “with a clear spirituality” that will bring “a strong common voice, a cry for humility,” Chittister said.

She also stressed the importance of asking the “revolutionary” question — Why? – and put a special emphasis on the power of the laity, noting that good ideas rarely come from the top.

“What you recognize, the Church will eventually recognize,” she said. “Start training your children with these questions, with these answers. Get them in these groups, and then watch the world change under their feet.”


America needs a spiritual answer, Chittister said.

“Spiritually doesn’t mean we take passively the destruction of our country and our Church,” she said

full article at Chicago Catholic

Phoenix diocese's limit on wine a major change in Mass

Michael Clancy
Arizona Republic
Sept. 23, 2011

The Phoenix Diocese will stop offering consecrated wine for Communion at most Masses, a change considered one of the most fundamental to Roman Catholic Church customs in decades.

A diocesan statement said the change was being made based on Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted's understanding of the church's new translation of the Mass, called the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, and other church documents.

However, no other diocese in the country is known to be following suit, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops told The Arizona Republic.

An effective date has not been announced.

The change will be one of the most significant in the Roman Catholic liturgy since the 1970s, when the distribution of wine was approved for the United States.

For many Catholics in the '70s, that change to Communion - the central act of worship in the Catholic Mass - represented a greater role for laypeople, who for the first time in centuries were able to take both forms of Communion, bread and wine, and help distribute it. Before, the use of wine was reserved only for clergy.

The change in practice by the Phoenix Diocese stirred an immediate controversy among priests, deacons and laypeople. Wine will be limited to only special occasions.

"The majority of priests were stunned and aghast at the announcement, and I hear some are planning to meet to see how best to respond," said the Rev. James Turner, pastor of St. Thomas More in Glendale. "While the bishop has the authority to make this policy change, there is no scriptural, theological or sacramental rationale that makes any sense."


Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is not aware of another U.S. diocese enacting such a restriction, although she noted that local bishops have the authority to do so.

The Rev. Al Schifano, a top church official in the Diocese of Tucson, said that Bishop Gerald Kicanas encourages Communion using both bread and wine and that the diocese will not change that under the new Mass translations.

The Rev. Anthony Ruff, a professor at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn., called the move a step backward.

"It's sad to see," he said, because the move separates the church further ecumenically from others and gives up "the gains we've made in the last half-century in our understanding of liturgy and sacraments."

Catholic members of the community were as divided as the priests.

"I would think these church leaders would be more concerned about the droves of people leaving the Catholic Church as well as the worsening shortage of priests," said Dennis Kavanaugh, an attorney who attends Resurrection parish in Tempe. "These issues are much more substantial to the long-term health of the church rather than reinstating medieval rituals and directives."

Olmsted declined a request for an interview. The diocese issued a statement and a question-and-answer sheet to explain the move.


Read here

Another lawsuit against Bishop Robert Finn

Justice Kendall
Pitch News
Sept. 23, 2011

The Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Bishop Robert Finn and the Rev. Shawn Ratigan are facing yet another lawsuit alleging a cover-up of the alleged discovery of child pornography on Ratigan's computer (Ratigan is facing state and federal child-porn charges). The details of how the diocese handled the discovery are disgusting, if true.
KCTV5 reported that the lawsuit alleges that Finn, the diocese's attorney and others gave Ratigan's laptop computer to the priest's family rather than authorities because they knew the family would destroy the computer — and evidence along with it — giving them "plausible deniability that they were incompetents rather than intentionally assisting Ratigan, as they were."

The lawsuit alleges that the girl met Ratigan in 2006 at her great-grandfather's funeral mass, which Ratigan was presiding over.

Ratigan allegedly kept in contact with the girl's family through 2011. He's accused of taking sexually explicit photos of the girl beginning in 2008, including an incident in which he allegedly posed the girl in a sexually explicit manner while she slept. Ratigan is then accused of uploading the photos to his computer and the Internet.

The lawsuit alleges that the photos of the girl were among those found on Ratigan's laptop by a computer tech in December 2010. The tech turned the computer over to a deacon, who allegedly talked the tech out of notifying the police. The deacon allegedly contacted Monsignor Robert Murphy, whose job was to handle allegations of sexual abuse against priests (Murphy is no longer in that role).

The lawsuit says Murphy contacted a police officer, who is also a member of the church, but vaguely described one of the more innocent photos on the computer. The computer was then given to Julie Creech, the diocese's director of management information systems, who learned that the computer tech had discovered "hundreds of photographs of young children, primarily girls," including nude photos.

Creech and diocese spokeswoman Rebecca Summers both told Murphy to call the authorities, but he didn't, the lawsuit alleges. Murphy allegedly led Summers to believe that he'd spoken with the authorities, when he had just consulted the police captain who was a member of the church, the lawsuit says.

Murphy did consult Finn, the lawsuit says, and reportedly repeatedly lied to cover for Ratigan and the diocese.

"Monsignor had no such plan to consult with a police officer now that he had ‘too much' information about the child pornography on the computer of an employee of the Diocese," the lawsuit alleges. "The plan approved by Finn and the Diocese was to evade, conceal and destroy evidence only by sophisticated means that might create the appearance that defendants, including Ratigan, were incompetents."

The images on Ratigan's laptop were copied and given to diocese attorney Jon Haden, which the lawsuit alleges was an attempt to cover up through attorney-client privilege.

The lawsuit alleges that Finn invented a request from Ratigan's family for the computer — and the computer was given to them so they would destroy it along with the computer's Internet history and "the evidence of the receipt and distribution of the child pornography it contained."

The authorities were finally contacted in May, and Ratigan was arrested.

The diocese is again denying the allegations in the lawsuit.

This isn't the first lawsuit against the diocese, Finn and Ratigan. In August, a lawsuit was filed against Ratigan accusing him of taking "sexually explicit photographs" of a young girl at an Easter-egg hunt at the Sisters of St. Francis Convent in Independence on Easter Sunday.

A lawsuit filed in June also accuses the diocese, Finn and Ratigan of engaging in a cover-up. This lawsuit was brought by the parents of a girl who allege that Ratigan took pictures of their daughter when she was 2 or 3 years old.

KC diocese moves forward with annual money appeal

Joshua J. McElwee
Sept. 19, 2011
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, which has been in controversy over its response to several allegations of sexual misconduct by priests, announced Friday that it would move forward with an annual fundraising campaign, after a “regroup...on the timing and marketing for this year’s appeal.”

News that the diocese would move forward with the campaign comes a month and half after it announced it would indefinitely delay a separate capital campaign [3], saying in a letter to parish administrators that it had made the move “in light of the current challenge.”

Announcement of the annual fundraising drive, called the “Bishop’s annual appeal,” came in a letter from the diocesan vice-chancellor, which was obtained by NCR.

According to the letter, written by vice-chancellor Paula Moss to local pastors, the diocese decided it “must move forward” with the annual campaign in order to fund diocesan schools, seminarians, and charities.

“I acknowledge we will face some challenges, but we must move forward,” writes Moss.

“We must move forward because children in our elementary schools and high schools are depending on us, seminarians are depending on us, children, families and the elderly served through Catholic Charities are depending on us, young adults attending our local universities are depending on us and the list goes on.”

In an e-mail this afternoon, Moss said the annual campaign would begin in October, “as it does every year.”

Announcement of the fundraising drive comes as the diocese continues to deal with the fallout of the arrest of diocesan priest Shawn Ratigan in May, and other cases of sexual misconduct by clergy.

The Kansas City Star reported last week that Bishop Robert Finn of the diocese testified before a grand jury in Jackson County, Mo., Friday. Although the grand jury meetings are secret, the Star wrote that the “lineup of grand jury witnesses suggests that the inquiry is focused more on the conduct of diocesan officials than that of Ratigan.”

A report commissioned by the diocese to study its handling of the Ratigan case, released Sept. 1, found that actions by those “individuals in positions of authority reacted to events in ways that could have jeopardized the safety of children in diocesan parishes, school, and families.”

In her letter to the pastors, Moss writes that priests who hear questions from parishioners about whether they should contribute to the campaign should “remind them that 100 percent goes directly to ministries that serve your parish and community.”

The kick-off date for the campaign is the weekend of Oct. 29-30. In previous years, a source familiar with the annual appeal told NCR, the campaign had started at the beginning of that month.

“Hopefully this [date] allows many parishes to launch and or finish their increased offertory campaigns as well as give us more time for healing,” writes Moss.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Does Benedict XVI want a fundamentalist church?

Sept. 16, 2011
Vatican Insider (from Le Figaro)

Behind the battle between expert theologians engaged in the negotiations between Rome and the Lefebvrists, an important evolution is taking place in the Catholic Church. No word yet on how Msgr. Fellay, welcomed Wednesday in Rome, will react to a proposal that was made last night which did not betray any enthusiasm - but whatever his response, The Holy See has gone through a crucial stage.

There are two main points to the issue. Formally, the Catholic Church seems to be rediscovering the essence of what it has been living for several centuries with the twelve Eastern Rite Catholic Churches. That is, the possibility of and the respect for a liturgical difference and an autonomy of operation and, in part, of doctrine. One could speak of a coexistence of "particularisms" with and alongside the Latin Roman Church.

It was given a prominent image by creating an ad hoc structure to accommodate Anglicans who wish to become Catholics. Another example could arise with the creation of an International Personal Prelature for the Fraternity of Saint Pius X, in spite of the fact that this reality openly considers itself a custodian of the true Catholic Church.


The other side of the matter sinks because it touches the very roots of Catholic identity. From the beginning of his pontificate, Benedict XVI's focus, has been on pushing Christians who say they are Catholic not to be more Catholic but truly Catholic.

Much more than a redefinition, therefore, is underway. The term is too superficial. And the proposal made yesterday to Bishop Fellay follows precisely along these lines. It concerns, of course, the special case of the Society of Saint Pius X, but its underlying logic confirms continued action and decision making, without just getting stuck on intentions.

It could be considered a kind of "essentialism" that combines depth, and pastoral, intellectual and... mystical intensity under the wing of Benedict XVI. This last aspect is essential for a Pope but since these matters of the soul cannot be "seen" and are not "said", being invisible and silent, they elude external analysis while being the central engine of the process.


Another element, the emotional charge, positive or negative, depending on the side, that the simple evocation of the Second Vatican Council causes, changes the cards on the table. What is not seen, but is perceived, is that behind the words, Benedict XVI wants to lead negotiations according to the taste of the Christian faith, as interpreted by the Catholic Church.

And this gives the Pope a wide freedom of thought and action as well as a breadth of vision that allowed him to open the doors to the Lefebvrists who criticized him severely for the beatification of John Paul II and for his participation, a month from now, in an interreligious meeting in Assisi.

Such benevolence has already triggered uproar in the left and center since it differentiates, with regard to the teaching of Vatican II, considered up to that time a single block and definitively overcome, of the areas in which a "legitimate discussion" is possible. But even if the response of Msgr. Fellay were negative, this stage has now been explicitly overcome by Rome, even though the Second Vatican Council had been deemed untouchable.


This reminds us, moreover, of a forgotten aspect of Catholic theology often perceived as a monolith: it has a central core on which the satellites are aligned, firmly bound together at the center, but structurally peripheral. Even the greatest theologians admit it.

Finally, I am struck by the discomfort and the vividness of the first reactions I have observed here and there. They show that many Catholics today consider themselves above all Christians. They guard themselves firmly from a Catholic identity that is too strong, because this would isolate them from dialogue with society, and particularly with other religions, and from that tolerance which they claim to be a priority.

However, the misunderstanding lies precisely in thinking that Benedict XVI is reaching out to the Lefebvrists, and that he wants to go in the direction of a Catholic Church that is integrated, uncompromising and, even fundamentalist! While seeking to reconcile Catholic Christians, on the left, and Christian Catholics, on the right, with what is really...the Catholic Church!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Rupture of Reverence for the Vatican Sets Off a Transformation in Ireland

New York Times
Sept. 17, 2011

DUBLIN — Even as it remains preoccupied with its struggling economy, Ireland is in the midst of a profound transformation, as rapid as it is revolutionary: it is recalibrating its relationship to the Roman Catholic Church, an institution that has permeated almost every aspect of life here for generations.

This is still a country where abortion is against the law, where divorce became legal only in 1995, where the church runs more than 90 percent of the primary schools and where 87 percent of the population identifies itself as Catholic. But the awe, respect and fear the Vatican once commanded have given way to something new — rage, disgust and defiance — after a long series of horrific revelations about decades of abuse of children entrusted to the church’s care by a reverential populace.

While similar disclosures have tarnished the Vatican’s image in other countries, perhaps nowhere have they shaken a whole society so thoroughly or so intensely as in Ireland. And so when the normally mild-mannered prime minister, Enda Kenny, unexpectedly took the floor in Parliament this summer to criticize the church, he was giving voice not just to his own pent-up feelings, but to those of a nation.

His remarks were a ringing declaration of the supremacy of state over church, in words of outrage and indignation that had never before been used publicly by an Irish leader.
“For the first time in Ireland, a report into child sexual abuse exposed an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an inquiry into a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago,” Mr. Kenny said, referring to the Cloyne Report, which detailed abuse and cover-ups by church officials in southern Ireland through 2009.

Reiterating the report’s claim that the church had encouraged bishops to ignore child-protection guidelines the bishops themselves had adopted, the prime minister attacked “the dysfunction, the disconnection, the elitism” that he said “dominate the culture of the Vatican.”
He continued: “The rape and torture of children were downplayed, or ‘managed,’ to uphold instead the primacy of the institution — its power, its standing and its reputation.” Instead of listening with humility to the heartbreaking evidence of “humiliation and betrayal,” he said, “the Vatican’s response was to parse and analyze it with the gimlet eye of a canon lawyer.”
The effect of his speech was instant and electric.

“It was a seminal moment,” said Patsy McGarry, the religious affairs correspondent for The Irish Times. “No Irish prime minister has ever talked to the Catholic Church before in this fashion. The obsequiousness of the Irish state toward the Vatican is gone. The deference is gone.”
While both sides are talking in more emollient terms now, there is no question that Mr. Kenny’s declaration deeply angered the Vatican. It immediately withdrew its ambassador from Dublin, ostensibly to help fashion the Vatican’s formal response. (The ambassador has since been reassigned to the Czech Republic.)

The position of Irish ambassador to the Vatican is currently vacant, too, and there is talk here of merging it with the ambassadorship to Italy. While government officials say the question is part of a general re-examination of the diplomatic budget, such a move would be seen as a pointed snub to the Holy See, a sovereign state to which countries generally dedicate separate embassies.

full article at New York Times

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bishop testifies for Jackson county grand jury

Kansas City Star
Sept. 16, 2011

Bishop Robert Finn, leader of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, testified this morning before a grand jury investigating the case of a priest already facing state and federal child pornography charges.

Finn, wearing a black suit and clerical collar, entered the Jackson County Criminal Justice Center through the main doors shortly after 8:15 a.m. and began testifying about 9:55 a.m. He left about 1 p.m.

“We’re doing the best we can to cooperate with law enforcement,” Finn said after testifying.

Finn agreed to give jurors any information they requested, said one of the attorneys who accompanied him into the justice center. “He’s hoping to move this matter along so he can get back to his ministry,” Gerald Handley said.

The grand jury began hearing testimony last month in the case involving the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, a Catholic priest charged with child pornography offenses in Clay County and in U.S. District Court. Unlike Finn, some of those testifying last month were kept from the public’s view and did not enter the building through the main doors.

The lineup of grand jury witnesses suggests that the inquiry is focused more on the conduct of diocesan officials than that of the Ratigan.

Those who have testified include diocesan spokeswoman Rebecca Summers and a Kansas City police captain whose opinion diocesan officials sought on a photo Ratigan allegedly took. The police captain also is a member of the diocese’s Independent Review Board, which reviews allegations against priests and makes recommendations to the bishop.

full article at Kansas City Star

Jews worried by Vatican gesture to traditionalists

NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press
Sept. 16, 2011

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Some Jewish groups voiced concern Friday that the Vatican might be calling into question more than 40 years of progress in Catholic-Jewish relations by reaching out to a group of breakaway traditionalist Catholics that includes a Holocaust-denying bishop.

The Vatican has been working for years to bring the breakaway Society of St. Pius X back into its fold, and this week told its members they must accept some core church teachings if they want to be fully reintegrated into the church. But the Holy See said some expressions contained in documents from the Second Vatican Council could be left open for "legitimate discussion."
The 1962-65 Vatican II meetings brought modernizing reforms to the Catholic Church, including outreach to Jews and introduction of the Mass in the vernacular rather than Latin. The Swiss-based Society of St. Pius X was formed in 1969, opposed to many of Vatican II's reforms.
The Vatican refused to say which core teachings the society must accept to be reintegrated, and which elements of Vatican II documents could be left open for discussion.
A key Vatican II document, Nostra Aetate, revolutionized the Catholic Church's relations with Jews by declaring that Christ's death couldn't be attributed to Jews as a whole. Other Vatican II teachings to which the society objects concern religious freedom and ecumenical relations.
The uncertainty over what is being required of the society provoked unease among some Jewish groups, which issued veiled warnings Friday about the possible impact on Vatican-Jewish relations were Nostra Aetate and other Vatican II teachings to be now considered ripe for discussion.
Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League's U.S. director, said he was confident that Pope Benedict XVI would require the society to accept the church's "positive teachings" about Jews before being fully reconciled with the church.
"It would be unthinkable for the Vatican to allow a Catholic breakaway sect that includes a Holocaust-denying bishop, Richard Williamson, to be reintegrated into the church while still being allowed to promote anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism," he said in a statement.

Elan Steinberg of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, said there would be "catastrophic effects" on Catholic-Jewish relations if the Vatican didn't require the society to accept the document. "We mustn't allow the moral imperative of Catholic-Jewish amity to fall victim to a policy of appeasement or blithe expediency," he said in a statement.

Even Rabbi David Rosen, who heads the American Jewish Committee's interreligious affairs office and is a veteran of Catholic-Jewish dialogue, said he was worried about the Vatican's gesture and awaited further clarification. "If 'Nostra Aetate' and 'Lumen Gentium' (another Vatican II document) are not considered fundamental doctrines of the Church, and it is possible to question them without challenging the authority of the church, then we (and not just Jewish-Catholic relations) are in for a very rough ride ahead," he said in an email.

Benedict, who has won praise from Jews for his decades of outreach, nevertheless provoked outrage in 2009 when he lifted the excommunication of Williamson, who denied gas chambers were used during the Holocaust. Williamson, Fellay and three other bishops were excommunicated in 1988 after the society's founder consecrated them without papal consent.

Did you know - how we change

The nature of human understanding is evolution, we evolve intellectually, socially, religiously. Looking at how church fathers of the past thought about women reinforces the idea that we can't go back. The misogyny that wants to return to the past, like the racism that pines for the good old days of segregation is a form of arrested development.

by John Houck
Sep 15 2005
Catholic Pittsburgh

From defective and veiled to --- what???

Each age has its changes to work through. The role of women is one of ours. In recent years there have been numerous Church pronouncements on the role of women with some reversing the position of the previous one. For example in 1980 John Paul II said no -no to girl altar servers and in 1994 reversed that decision and said that local bishops had the choice. The USCCB tried for several years to write a pastoral letter on women and gave up because each new draft was less helpful than the one before. Yes, this is an issue for our time. Here is some history:

Tertullian c. 200 (Early Church Father) “You (women) are the devils gateway ... you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack.”

John Chrysostom, c. 400 Women were “to be veiled not only at the time of prayer, but continuously”

Synod of Paris, 829 “In some provinces it happens that women press around the altar, touch the holy vessels, hand the clerics the priestly vestments, indeed even dispense the body and blood of the Lord to the people. This is shameful and must not take place.”

Decretum, 1140 “The image of God is in man in such a way that there is only one Lord ... and thus woman is not made in God’s image.”

Pius X, 1903 “Women, therefore, being incapable of such an office, cannot be admitted to the choir.”

Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. “Any type of social or cultural discrimination in basic personal rights on the basis of sex,... must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design.” (Note: This is from a Council “Constitution” the most authoritative of all Council Documents.)

Christians could (and can) only see with the eyes of their culture. Slavery had been everywhere for as long as anyone could remember. Therefore, it was almost impossible for someone to conceive that slavery was morally wrong. So it has been with the role of women in the culture that has sustained Christianity. In this culture women contributed nothing to the next generation (all active participation came from the male “seed”), women were mentally, physically and spiritually inferior to the point of serious defect in their nature, women were naturally subservient to men and finally they were the cause of sin in the world.

Against this cultural baggage even St. Paul’s "there is no male or female but all are one in Jesus", and Vatican II’s "discrimination on the grounds of sex is incompatible with God’s design" did (and do) not compute in our culturally formed attitudes toward women. St. Paul fell to using the prevailing cultural codes to describe the role of women, and our Church is now marching backwards when it comes to including women in decision making and ministry. We use only male language for God as if feminine language were heretical despite section 370 of our Catechism which proclaims that God has no gender. (Even the Catechism doesn’t compute.) The inclusive and egalitarian gospel of Jesus is still struggling to penetrate our culturally conditioned minds.

We have come a long way from Tertullian to Vatican II, but we still have a long way to go.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

With abuse scandal, priest shortage, a sour 10 days in Ireland

Arthur Jones
Sept. 15, 2011
National Catholic Reporter

DUBLIN, Ireland -- For the Vatican this has been a sour 10 days in Ireland. It began with Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin suggesting there may be a “cabal” in the Vatican protecting sex abusers. This at a time when Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny refused to back down on his charges of Vatican interference in the sovereign affairs of the Irish state -- despite Rome’s rebuttal that cut little ice in Ireland as it denied a cover-up.

Days passed, and then, when a former Irish missionary sued Ireland’s national television, RTÉ, for libel over an allegation he’d fathered a child in Nigeria, Rome was immediately reminded that Nigeria could be the next country to erupt with a barrage of clerical sexual abuse claims.

Meanwhile, the Vatican is waiting for the next boot to drop as the Irish police, the Gardaí, move to the fore. The Gardaí is reviewing 80 years of formal sexual abuse complaints against the clergy, complaints presumably hushed up due to collusion between church and governmental authorities.

To cap the 10-day period, former Derry Bishop Edward Daly, in a book published this week, called for optional celibacy -- a married priesthood -- in the Catholic Church.

All this, with Mass attendance plummeting and much of the 4.5 million Irish population (nominally 88.4 percent Catholic) disgusted at the church leadership’s betrayal from the top on down.

The most damaging blow to the Vatican’s image was the Sept. 4 suggestion by Martin in the Irish Independent that sexual abusers in the Cloyne diocese (already the subject of a major Irish investigation) may be protected by a “cabal,” and that by extension the same cabal could exist in the Irish church, and the Vatican.

His statement in full, as reported by the Independent, suggests:

There may be a cabal in Cloyne. They may have friends in other parts of the Irish church. They may have friends in Irish society. There may be friends in the Vatican.
The numbers that are involved are few. The damage that these people cause is horrendous. It’s for all of us to see where they are, but in the long-term I have to take the responsibility that in Dublin there are not cabals who reject our child protection laws.

Everybody knows there are people who have challenged what I do, there are people who challenge what the Dublin archdiocese does, people challenge what the national norms are. They exist. The way we get out of the cabals is by those of us who are convinced of what we are doing being strong together.

Yet it is Daly who, in his A Troubled See: Memoirs of a Derry Bishop, is indirectly pressing the Vatican hardest with a reality it cannot avoid: the priest shortage. Married priests may not be enough. Sixteen years from now there will be only 1,500 rapidly aging priests in Ireland for 4.5 million people.

US priests form new national association

So like the priests associations in Austria demanding married and women priests, the priests association in Germany demanding collegiality and allowing divorced people to receive communion and the association of priests in Ireland criticizing the new missal translation and asking for married priests, we now have a nascent association of American priests as reported in this article from NCR.

Sept 15, 2011

A national organization of Catholic priests has been formed and is in the process of informing the U.S. bishops of its existence and preparing to recruit priest members from around the country.

Fr. David Cooper, a Milwaukee pastor and chair of an eight-member organizing core said the new Association of U.S. Catholic Priests has two major goals: to reach out in fraternal support to brother priests and to create a collegial voice so priests can speak in a united way.

“More and more, priests find themselves living in isolated conditions,” Cooper told NCR, either because they are in small dioceses or in vastly scattered regions or because they find the heavy burdens of priest-scarce ministry overwhelming.

The association will stress “our common mandate to serve as Jesus served,” Cooper said, but quickly added that it will also “hold one hand out to the bishops and one hand to the baptized faithful, the laity.”

Voice will be an overarching issue, said Cooper: “For several decades priests did have a voice through priests’ senates and councils. But in 1983 through a change in Canon Law these groups became the domain of the ordinary, and we lost our collegial voice.”

However, Cooper insisted protest and disagreement will not be on the agenda of the new organization.

“During the first four years the association will be celebrating the Second Vatican Council,” he said, “and next June on the 50th anniversary of the council’s opening, we will hold a major convocation at St. Leo University in Tampa, Fla. The topic will be the liturgy, the first document approved at Vatican II.”


Vega added he is fearful that the association, as it develops, may follow too closely in the steps of the new Irish Priests Association, which has already strongly criticized the Roman Missal translation, asked for a reconsideration of who can be called to holy orders, and endorsed the idea of a married clergy.

“Taking up those issues puts you into immediate conflict with the bishops,” said Vega.

The creation of the association came about in part through an unlikely confluence of events: the setting up of a Web site in Seattle by Fr. Michael Ryan to allow people to protest the coming changes in the Roman Missal, the formation of the Irish Association of Priests, and an inspiration from the Pittsburgh Association of Priests.

Fr. Bernard Survil, a longtime member of the Pittsburgh group (though a priest of the Greensburg, Pa., diocese), helped organize a questionnaire mailing to priests around the country, using contact information placed on Ryan’s Web site as people signed the protest.

The questionnaire asked respondents to prioritize the same objectives the Irish had used in forming their association and to indicate their thoughts about forming a similar U.S. association.

Of the 250 priests who responded, Survil reported, the most favored objective called for an association dedicated to “full implementation of the vision and teachings of the Second Vatican Council with special emphasis on the primacy of the individual conscience, the status and participation of all the baptized, and the task of establishing a church where all believers will be treated as equals.”


Dubi said he is hopeful the association will be successful in attracting young priests, Latino and other minority group priests and the many clergy brought in from foreign countries.

“This is going to be a great experience,” he said.

full story here

Vatican gives traditionalists doctrinal statement to sign

Sept. 14, 2011

VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican has given the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X a formal "doctrinal preamble" listing several principles they must agree with in order to move toward full reconciliation with church.

U.S. Cardinal William J. Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, gave the statement to Bishop Bernard Fellay, head of the society, Sept. 14 during a meeting at the Vatican that lasted more than two hours.

Although the Vatican did not give the society a deadline, in order to move toward full reconciliation, leaders are expected to study and sign the preamble "within a few months," said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman.

The cardinal and bishop also discussed possible "elements of a canonical solution" for the society after "the eventual and hoped-for reconciliation," said a statement issued by the Vatican after the meeting.

Father Lombardi said, "Today the most likely solution would be a personal prelature," which is a church jurisdiction without geographical boundaries designed to carry out particular pastoral initiatives. It is headed by a prelate, who is appointed by the pope; currently the church's only personal prelature is Opus Dei.

The document given to Bishop Fellay to sign "states some doctrinal principles and criteria for the interpretation of Catholic doctrine necessary to guarantee fidelity" to the formal teaching of the church, said a statement issued by the Vatican after the meeting.

At the same time, the statement said, the preamble leaves room for "legitimate discussion" about "individual expressions or formulations present in the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the successive magisterium" of the popes who came after the council.


The talks were launched in late 2009 in an effort by Pope Benedict XVI to repair a 21-year break with the society. The pope said that full communion for the group's members would depend on "true recognition of the magisterium and the authority of the pope and of the Second Vatican Council."

The Vatican statement did not mention any of the specific areas where Bishop Fellay's group has said the Catholic Church and the popes since the Second Vatican Council had broken with true Catholic tradition. They object to the reform of the Mass, to much of the church's work in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, and to the council's stand on religious freedom.

Bishop Fellay had said his society went into the talks aiming to show the contradictions between the church's traditional teachings and its practices since Vatican II. That is "the only goal that we are pursuing," he had said, adding that the dialogue with the Vatican is not a search for compromise but "a question of faith."

In addition to the society's rejection of many Vatican II teachings, members also objected to the beatification of Pope John Paul II and, particularly, to Pope Benedict's convocation of another interreligious meeting for peace in Assisi.

Pope Benedict cleared the way for reconciliation talks with the Society of St. Pius X in early 2009 when he lifted the excommunications of Bishop Fellay and three other society bishops ordained against papal orders in 1988. The Vatican said the dialogue was designed to restore "full communion" with members of the society, which was founded by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.


On its U.S. district website Sept. 6, the Society of St. Pius X published parts of an interview Bishop Fellay gave in June. In it, he said, contacts were ongoing, although "we have probably reached the end of a period of discussions. It is not yet totally clear. What is going to happen? What is going to be the result of this phase?"

"We cannot deceive ourselves: We are truly in a crisis of the church. It is certainly not over," he said. "We work for the restoration of the church, but it may still last a decade or two. We need much courage and perseverance. Our situation might be solved tomorrow and it might be solved after tomorrow. Everything is in the hands of the good Lord. Let us simply remain faithful."

full article at National Catholic Reporter

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dublin priests' morale at all time low

15 Sep 2011
Garry O'Sullivan
The Irish Catholic

Morale of clergy in the Dublin diocese is at an ''all time low'' according to the now resigned chairman of the Priests Council, Fr Aquinas Duffy.

Fr Duffy, who resigned in recent weeks, said he resigned from the position due to time constraints and felt that, as the three year term had just started, it was best to go now and let someone else give it ''the time that it deserves''.

Asked about the morale of the clergy, he said it is at an ''all time low'' and he included lay people also.

He added that there is ''frustration at trying to change Church structures so that real change comes about. In some ways we need to start moving to a collaborative style of structure and not hierarchial.

He said there were some ''beginnings there at parish level'' but that at ''structural level there needs to be diocesan councils that have real say''.
The urgency around this, he said, is very real as ''we are moving into a situation in the future where the main function of the priest is to serve sacramentally''.
Asked what needed to be done to raise morale, he said that there is a need to ''encourage and build people up. Many feel disillusioned and sometimes abandoned.
''If only we had good planning for the future. The lack of planning causes disillusionment,'' added Fr Duffy.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bishop of Derry calls for end of celibacy in Catholic church

Harry McDonald
The Guardian
Sept. 13, 2011

On Bloody Sunday in 1972 Father Edward Daly faced down the Parachute Regiment responsible for shooting dead 13 unarmed Derry civilians, waving just a white handkerchief as he protected the wounded from the army's bullets in the Bogside. Now 39 years later the retired Bishop of Derry is confronting an even more powerful force than the Paras: the Vatican.

Dr Daly, who was the Bishop of Derry for 20 years during the Troubles, has become the first senior Irish Catholic cleric to call for an end to celibacy in the church. His intervention in the debate over whether priests should be allowed to marry is highly significant because he is still one of the most respected figures in the Irish Catholic church at a time when faith in the institution has been shattered by the paedophile scandals involving clergy.

Challenging centuries of Catholic theocracy, Daly has said that allowing the clergy to marry would solve some of the church's problems.

The number of Catholic priests in Ireland is in sharp decline as older clergy die and very few young men take up a celibate life. In some parishes the church has transferred priests from Poland and the developing world to fill the gap.

"There will always be a place in the church for a celibate priesthood, but there should also be a place for a married priesthood in the church," Daly writes in his new book A Troubled See, Memoirs of a Derry Bishop, which will be launched at Magee College in the city on Wednesday.

"I think priests should have the freedom to marry if they wish. It may create a whole new set of problems but I think it's something that should be considered," he says.

"I'm worried about the decreasing number of priests and the number of older priests. I think it's an issue that needs to be addressed and addressed urgently."

While Daly accepts he might be out of step with current Vatican thinking he points out that he is "not engaged in a popularity contest".

He says that during his time as a bishop he found it "heartbreaking" that so many priests or prospective priests were forced to resign or were unable to get ordained because of the celibacy issue.

Many young men who once considered joining the priesthood turned away because of the rule, the 74-year-old cleric argues.

Daly became a recognised figure around the world in 1972 when he was seen waving a bloodied white handkerchief in front of British paratroopers in Derry during Bloody Sunday.

The sight of the priest during the army massacre in the city became one of the most iconic images of the Northern Ireland Troubles.

He accepts that admission of married men to the priesthood could well create new problems and issues for the church.

"However, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, major decisions must be made," he adds.

In his book he also denounces the paedophile priests whose crimes and the cover-up by the Catholic hierarchy has dramatically reduced the church's respect and influence in Ireland. He is "heartbroken and appalled" that fellow clergymen were engaged in "such horrible criminal acts against the most vulnerable".

Catholic priests have been unable to marry since the Gregorian reforms in the 11th century made celibacy compulsory. Historians have contended that the move was partly for spiritual reasons, but was mainly to ensure estates held by clerics would pass back to the church upon their deaths rather than to offspring.

However, in recent years Pope Benedict XVI has made allowances for married Anglican ministers to transfer to the Catholic church after a number made the move in protest at controversial Anglican issues including the ordination of women priests, and acceptance of ministers in same-sex relationships.


The view from the top is clear. Last year, when the scandal over clerical sex abuse was at its height, the archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schönborn, suggested part of the problem might be priestly celibacy. His comment was all the more interesting, coming as it did from a conservative theologian andformer star pupil of Pope Benedict. But in case anyone thought his musings had Vatican backing, the pope went out of his way a few days later to praise celibacy as an "expression of the gift of oneself to God and others". Three months later, he reinforced his defence of the status quo, describing celibacy as a "great sign of faith".

The debate over whether to admit married men to the priesthood, however, is one not even the pope can stifle. ....... The first senior figure to argue the case for a link between an unmarried priesthood and sex abuse was the bishop of Hamburg, Hans-Jochen Jaschke, who in March 2010 told a newspaper interviewer a "celibate lifestyle can attract people who have an abnormal sexuality".


The reordination into the Catholic church of married Anglican priests has pointed up the fact that priestly celibacy is not a doctrine, but a discipline. In 1970, the decline in priesthood vocations persuaded nine leading theologians to sign a memorandum declaring that the Catholic leadership "quite simply has a responsibility to take up certain modifications" to the celibacy rule. Extracts from the document were reprinted in January. Not least because one of the signatories was the then Joseph Ratzinger, now pope Benedict.

Int'l criminal court urged to investigate Vatican officials

Sept. 13, 2011

Lawyers today filed a petition with the International Criminal Court on behalf of clergy sex abuse victims urging an investigation of high-ranking Roman Catholic Church leaders, including Pope Benedict XVI, charging that the widespread sexual abuse by priests in various countries and the handling of those cases by bishops and authorities in the Vatican constitute widespread human rights abuses.
The communication filed with the court in Hague in the Netherlands is comparable to the filing of a complaint with a district attorney’s office in the United States, said Pamela C. Spees, senior staff attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York based organization that has its roots in the Civil Rights era and that seeks to use law to effect social change.
The complaint names Pope Benedict XVI, both in his current capacity and as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when he was head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has responsibility for handling sex abuse cases; the former and current Vatican secretaries of state, Angelo Sodano, who held the office from 1991 to 2006, and Tarcisio Bertone, who was appointed Sodano’s successor; and U.S. Cardinal William Levada, former archbishop of San Francisco, who was appointed by Benedict to succeed him in the doctrine congregation.
In a Sept. 9 interview, <b><big>Spees said the center argues that similar patterns have emerged time and again in various countries as a result of what she termed “a culture of sexual violence within the church.” While most of the investigations of clergy sex abuse have occurred in discrete locations and were confined to individual dioceses, she said, “when you zoom out and see the same policies and practices” occurring internationally and “when you look at what’s been documented and the brutality of it,” she said, the justification for an international investigation becomes clear.
An investigation is also justifiable, the lawyers argue, under the Rome Statute, the 1998 treaty establishing the court as a result of increasing international concern about wartime crimes including rape and other forms of sexual violence. The center maintains that the widespread incidence of sexual violence by Catholic clergy and the hierarchy’s attempt to keep it secret satisfies the statute’s definition of attacks against a civilian population.</big></b>

“Crimes against tens of thousands of victims, most of them children, are being covered up by officials at the highest level of the Vatican. In this case, all roads really do lead to Rome,” said Spees in a statement posted on the CCR Web site this morning. “These men operate with impunity and without accountability. The Vatican officials charged in this case are responsible for rape and other sexual violence and for the physical and psychological torture of victims around the world both through command responsibility and through direct cover up of crimes. They should be brought to trial like any other officials guilty of crimes against humanity.”
The Rome statute, says the communication, recognizes “the evolution of rape law” and “the fact that rape and other forms of sexual violence are often committed under coercive circumstances that negate the possibility of genuine consent. This is especially important in cases involving child victims and vulnerable adults, particularly where, as here, the perpetrator is an authority figure to which the victim feels compelled to submit.”
In the first filing with the court, the center stated that the Vatican, as a highly centralized entity with all authority flowing to the pope, “has had a longstanding policy and practice of dealing with sexual violence by priests and others associated with the church in ways that ensured such violence would continue.”
The Vatican officials, it asserts, maintain ultimate authority over bishops and priests and thus, under the statutes provisions, fit the definition of non-military superiors who can be held responsible “for crimes committed by subordinates.”
Such superiors are culpable under the statute, according to the filing, if the superior:
  • “either knew or consciously disregarded information which clearly indicated that the subordinates were committing or about to commit such crimes”;
  • if the crimes were committed “within the effective responsibility and control of the superior”;
  • if the superior “failed to take all necessary and reasonable measures within his or her power to prevent or repress their commission or to submit the matter to competent authorities for investigation and prosecution.”
The International Criminal Court was established as the result of a treaty, called the Rome Statute, in 2002 as an independent international organization to deal with serious international crimes. The idea for an independent, permanent court grew out of the temporary tribunals conducted to hear cases from Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. The original treaty establishing the basis for the court was signed in Rome in 1998 by 120 countries. A total of 60 countries ratified the agreement. Neither the United States nor the Vatican is a party to the treaty.

Full article  <a href="">here </a>

Monday, September 12, 2011

Push for reform grows in Austria

Christa Pongratz-Lippitt
Sept. 12, 2011

VIENNA, AUSTRIA -- As Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna prepares to meet privately for a second time with leaders of a group of priests who are pushing a reform agenda for the Catholic church, other Catholic leaders are calling for wider discussion of church reform.

In June, a group of about 300 priests, called the Austrian Priests’ Initiative, issued an “Appeal to Disobedience,” in which they pledged to take practical action on a list of reforms that included giving Communion to everyone who approaches the altar in good faith, including divorced Catholics who have remarried without an annulment, and publicly speaking out in support of the ordination of women and married men.

Membership in the group has grown to about 400, roughly one in 10 active priests, and some 12,000 lay Catholics are said to support the initiative.

Schönborn met Aug. 10 with leading members of the initiative and countered the priests’ “Appeal to Disobedience” with an “Appeal for Unity.” Schönborn reminded the priests that when they were ordained, they promised the bishop “reverence and obedience.”

Anyone who has come to the decision “that Rome is on a wrong track,” he said, must leave the Catholic church.

This sparked media reports of schism in the Austrian church, which caused the archdiocesan spokesman Michael Prüller to tell Catholic News Service, “The situation is not as dramatic as the Austrian media make it seem.”

While some saw the cardinal’s statement as an ultimatum, Prüller said, “this is nothing like that. There will be an ongoing debate and there has to be an ongoing discussion of the underlying issues.”

Schönborn was reportedly to meet the Priests’ Initiative leaders again Sept. 10.

But the leaders of Austria’s Conference of Religious Superiors of Men want that meeting to be public and encompass a larger group. Because there is talk of schism, they say, the controversy can no longer be solved by Schönborn alone.


Abbot Martin Felhofer of the Premonstratensian Abbey of Schlägl said, “Everyone -- bishops, abbots, religious and representatives of the Austrian Priests’ Initiative -- must sit down and discuss these problems together.”

The director of Caritas Austria, Franz Küberl, told Austrian state radio Sept. 3 that the church reform debate was not confined to Austria. The same issues are being discussed in many countries. He was in favor of ordaining women deacons, he said, and as far as obedience was concerned, the main thing “surely” was to obey the Gospel.

The head of Austrian Catholic Action, Luitgard Derschmidt, said that she fully understands that the members of the Priests’ Initiative “have had enough” and that Catholic Action shares many of their concerns. Austrian Catholic Action is the umbrella group for seven Catholic lay organizations that represent approximately 500,000 lay Catholics.

They were “not so much calling for disobedience but rather for a higher obedience to conscience and to God,” Derschmidt said. Mandatory priestly celibacy was a rule that could be relaxed, she said, adding that that many Catholic theologians see no reason why women could not be ordained.

The most recent polls taken among Austrian Catholics show that 90 percent want this controversy solved without there being winners or losers.

The polls also show that only 14 percent of Austrian priests think they are duty bound to obey church leaders and only 14 percent of Austrians accept the argument that women can never be ordained as Jesus only ordained men.

But 70 percent believe the church and its leaders are “an important moral authority.”

Ninety-six percent say that the exodus from the Austrian Catholic church would be “huge” if members of the Priests’ Initiative are suspended.

The Austrian Priests’ Initiative was founded in 2006 by Msgr. Helmut Schüller, ......

The initiative decided to make their “Call to Disobedience” public in June, Schüller said, because parish priests have been expected to live schizophrenic lives for so long that it was wearing them out.

The hierarchy tolerates widespread disobedience at the grass roots, he said. For instance, it is a well-known fact that Catholics, even many of the young who go to World Youth Days, widely use contraception although it is forbidden by church law, he said. As a result, birth rates in Catholic countries like Poland and Austria are among the lowest in Europe if not in the world, but the bishops refuse to discuss such problems openly, thus leaving parish priests to teach one thing but practice or tolerate another, Schüller said.

Since June, Schüller’s group has been in touch with similar groups in Ireland and the United States, he said. From the beginning, the group has had close contact with like-minded priests in Germany, where there is a similar initiative that is, however, more hesitant to go public than the Austrian initiative, according to Schüller.

He has received thousands of e-mails from all over the world, he said. Most have been supportive, but there has also been some harsh criticism, with people accusing the priests of promoting a schism and telling them to leave the Catholic church.


It was pointed out, for example, that in April 1938 the Austrian bishops called on Catholics to vote for Nazi Germany’s annexation of Austria. Most obeyed the bishops, but a few, like Franz Jägerstätter, refused. Jägerstätter did not leave the church. He was, moreover, many years later beatified for his disobedience.

Full article at National Catholic Reporter

I have no idea where I am going

Reading the prayer of Mychal Judge today (Lord, take me where you want me to go...) reminded me of the beautiful prayer of Thomas Merton. This prayer sustained me when I was most lost and unsure.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Philadelphia urgently needs truth, compassion and healing

Sept. 12, 2011
NCR editorial

Philadelphia is an archdiocese in which the people have been deeply wounded by a significant number of their priests and the last three cardinal archbishops. It is a place where children, mostly boys, have been raped and molested, in some cases repeatedly and over years. It is a place where the wounds of the priest sex abuse crisis are perhaps the most exposed of any diocese, and where, with each new revelation of testimony by former archdiocesan officials, the wounds are scored open anew.

It is a place where the last three cardinal archbishops have deeply betrayed the trust of the Catholic community and that of the wider culture. They deceived the Catholic community, were complicit in hiding crimes and criminals and acted first to protect their own reputations and that of the institution to the detriment of the community’s most vulnerable.
The Catholic community in Philadelphia is in desperate need of a credible example of the truth of the Incarnation that sustains us: That the divine is mediated through the human. In that context it is not God’s intent that we passively accept abuse and betrayal from our leaders, hoping that somewhere down the line we’ll understand the will of God.

But that’s what the faithful of Philadelphia were told by their new archbishop, Charles Chaput, in his first homily as leader of the archdiocese: “All the events of a believer’s life are shaped by the will of a loving God. God’s purpose undergirds everything that happens to Christians, for God is truly in control. So in the midst of the turmoil of the church in our time, specifically in Philadelphia, this feast of Mary’s birth should remind us of God’s loving plan” and that “all things work for the good of those who love God and who are called according to his purpose.”
Sex abuse is the respectable term we apply to rape and sodomy of the most vicious sort against children. In his homily, Chaput couldn’t even bring himself to use that term. He spoke of the church in Philadelphia facing “serious challenges,” “failures,” “problems.” What better context than the Catholic Mass for acknowledging the victims, but Chaput never uttered that word either.
Philadelphia presents a particularly urgent case in need of truth, compassion and healing. What isn’t needed at the moment is someone who insists that the church “is not defined by its failures” and its “critics and those who dislike us.”
The church in this case is rightly being defined by its “failures” and will continue to be until it regains the trust of its own people. And it won’t regain trust by blaming the problems on its critics. In this instance, outside enemies are the least of the problem. The church’s leaders and certain of its priests have been enemy enough to the community.
In this first encounter with their new leader, however, the faithful in Philadelphia found little acknowledgment of the pain they’ve endured and the degree to which they’ve been betrayed.

Read full article at National Catholic Reporter

Lord, take me where you want me to go

With all the uncertainties and problems occuring in the church, it is too easy to lose sight of the all the holy people of God carrying out the true mission of the church without press or power. One such was Father Mychal Judge, the first  fatality in the World Trade Center towers on 9/11.

Fr. John Felice,OFM
Sept 20, 2011
The Tablet (UK)

Tuesday 11 September 2001 was a cloudless, pristine day in early fall. I was on the way to the funeral of a fellow friar in New Jersey and, as I headed towards the West Side Highway, the car radio announced the crash of a plane at the World Trade Center. I looked to my left and saw a faint puff of smoke coming from the North Tower.

By the time I had crossed the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey, a second plane had hit the South Tower. The city went into lockdown and there was no turning back. The news announced the death of Fr Mychal Judge, a Franciscan friar from St Francis of Assisi Church and a chaplain of the New York Fire Department. It was time for me to find some way to get home. Late that night, I managed to get a police escort back into the city.

My room in the friary was right below Fr Mychal's and we both had windows that looked out on to 31st Street and the fire station across the way. It always seemed to me a place of camaraderie and easy banter, a kind of ­secular friary. The Holy Name Province's ­relationship with the fire department began in the early 1970s with Fr Julian Deacon, who was a member of the friar staff at St Francis Church and struck up a relationship with the firefighters across the street.

Gradually this relationship became formalised and Fr Julian continued his service until his death in the late 1980s. Fr Mychal was his successor and after his death the role passed to Fr Christopher Keenan, the current fire chaplain. This long and wonderful relationship has enriched us both. The firefighters and the friars have a similar sense of camaraderie, loyalty and mutual respect.

The morning after 9/11, reality began to sink in. I saw one of the fire trucks covered with dust and debris, its ladder half raised with an American flag at its top. The fire­fighters were quietly standing still just trying to absorb the unimagined, the loss of members from their own house. People began to bring flowers and lay them at the door of the station. The shock of the tragedy began to settle in like the cloud of ash that hung over the city for days. The grief and the mourning and the funerals without caskets began to unfold day after day, week after week for months.

But we had our own loss to mourn. Fr Mychal died at the foot of the North Tower wearing his fire chaplain coat and tending to his beloved fellow firefighters. The picture of Fr Mychal's body being carried out of the rubble by four first responders became the lasting image of the larger loss of life and the bodies that were never rescued from the debris. Fr Mychal officially became the first person listed among the dead of 9/11. His funeral and his legend began to grow from that day.

A few months later, I was asked to say a few words at an awards ceremony honouring Fr Mychal. I said, in part: "Although that tragic event took the lives of almost 3,000 people at the World Trade Center, Mychal became the symbol of our grief as a city and as a nation. His selfless act brought meaning and dignity in the face of the incomprehensible destruction of that day. His actions and those of his beloved firefighters, as well as the police and emergency service workers, gave us something to be proud of at one of our darkest moments."

And of Fr Mychal himself I said: "There is a rush to canonise Mychal these days and I think it is a mistake. In making saints out of people, we often shove them away from our experience and place them on a pedestal. He was a very human, flawed, complex person just like the rest of us. His real legacy to each one of us is that such is the stuff of greatness. Our limits are largely self-imposed. Our ­willingness to say yes, more than no, to the events and people that make up our day teaches us the life lesson of putting others first. It is a freeing and joyful way to live."

Ten years have gone by since that terrible day. The tenth anniversary of 9/11 comes with mixed feelings. If you lived in New York City at the time of this tragedy, deep emotions are still attached to the event. The overwhelming sense of loss and destruction lingered long after the collapse of the towers. There is an uneasy feeling when picking through the carnage of the past and a reluctance to remember again those sad days. But time moves on.

On the footprint of the North Tower now a new building is rising, and the World Trade Center memorial is complete. But the years between have brought two intractable wars, the continuing loss of life and treasure, vastly increased security measures and the uneasy estimate of the lives lost for the Iraq and Afghan people. No one can guess how long our military presence will remain in the region. No one has yet to discover the language that can begin to heal the cultural and ethnic divisions that have seemed to only grow worse.

But life does go on. We will never forget the courage, the kindness and the deep-felt bond that held us together as a people during those first months. It is with the eye of history that we need now to consider the wisdom of the courses we have chosen since 9/11 and the impact they have left on our world. We cannot remake the past but we can all help fashion the future. I am reminded of a simple prayer attributed to Fr Mychal:

Lord, take me where you want me to go;

Let me meet who you want me to meet;

Tell me what you want me to say,

And keep me out of your way.

Fr John Felice OFM was provincial minister of the Franciscan Friars' Holy Name Province, which serves primarily the eastern coast of the United States, from 1996 to 2005. He is currently director of St Francis Friends of the Poor in New York City, which he co-founded in 1980 to provide housing for the mentally ill.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Cullen: Church oversight lax on sex abuse

I grew up in Allentown, PA which was part of the Philadelphia Archdiocese. While going to college I worked at the local newspaper, the Morning Call. Around the time I became an adult and moved away, the diocese of Allentown was formed. So I am especially interested in the unfolding abuse story in Philadelphia involving two Cardinals and now with criminal charges brought against a high diocesan official (Msgr. Lynn). The following excerpted story appeared today in the Morning Call relating recently unsealed testimony by 3rd Allentown Bishop Cullen stating essentially that covering up pedophiles was just the way "all the churches" dealt with child abuse. The evidence is stronger and stronger that protection of children was never a high priority with the hierarchy compared to the avoidance of public embarrassment.

Matt Assad and Peter Hall
Morning Call
Sept 11, 2011

Deputy Philadelphia District Attorney Charles Gallagher was keenly aware that he had the bishop of the Allentown Catholic Diocese in the witness chair, yet he was finding it difficult to beat back the anger that was welling up inside him.

Children had been molested by priests, and during a Philadelphia grand jury investigation in November 2003, Bishop Edward Cullen was struggling to explain why the church protected pedophiles and not the children they hurt.

His words straining as he tried to keep his composure, Gallagher demanded to know why church officials never called police.

"I mean, is that asking too much, bishop, because I really don't think it is?" Gallagher said, as he questioned Cullen before a grand jury of 29 people.

"They didn't have to report it to law enforcement," Cullen said.

"I don't care what they had to do or what they didn't have to do as far as the dictates of law," Gallagher said, his voice rising. "The dictates of the Catholic church, the dictates of their conscience, the dictates of what is right and what is wrong, why didn't they call law enforcement and say: We got a pedophile on our hands and we need law enforcement to take him off the streets?

"I'm sorry I raised my voice," he added.

"Oh, no, no, no, I understand. That's a very delicate topic," Cullen said. "I'm just saying when you ask about the Catholic church, that is what all — that is modus operandi of how things were handled in those days, and it wasn't just the Catholic church. It was all the churches."

Gallagher asked why church officials didn't follow what they "learned in their faith and do the right thing?"

"I think when it comes to issues of this kind, at that time they did follow the law. There is no question about it. And I wish it had been a different setting and a different — a different manner of acting, but unfortunately, that's what happened," Cullen said.

That terse exchange is encased in nearly 800 pages of newly released testimony by Cullen, taken during a grand jury investigation into decades of child sexual abuse by clergy in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. In a rare move, testimony in the clergy abuse investigation in 2003 and 2004 was unsealed two weeks ago by a Philadelphia judge after attorneys for The Philadelphia Inquirer argued that its use in a related criminal case made it public.

The file, which covers testimony from Cullen and 10 other church officials, provides a rare glimpse inside the Catholic church as it struggled to deal with an emerging problem of clergy sex abuse.

The two-year investigation led to a scathing 2005 report that accused the Philadelphia Archdiocese of protecting pedophile priests, but no charges were filed because the statute of limitations had expired for all the abuse uncovered.

A follow-up report, released this year after more recent victims came forward, led to rape charges against two priests, a defrocked priest and a teacher. In addition, Monsignor William Lynn was charged with conspiracy and felony child endangerment for moving known abusers to new parishes where they would again be in contact with children. All have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial.

Read the entire story at the Morning Call

Friday, September 9, 2011

German church head backs communion for divorcees

The Tablet
Sept 9, 2011

Three weeks before the Pope is due to visit Germany, the President of the German bishops' conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg, has come out in favour of discussing the issue of communion for remarried divorcees. Archbishop Zollitsch told Die Zeit: "We are all faced with the problem of how we can help people in whose lives certain things have gone wrong and that includes a wrecked marriage ... This is a very serious problem but I really think that we will move forward on the issue of remarried divorcees within my lifetime." Cardinal Meisner of Cologne and the apostolic nuncio in Germany, Archbishop Jean-Claude Perisset, immediately distanced themselves from Archbishop Zollitsch.

Teczar laicized by Pope

This man was a known abuser long ago. The local bishop didn't allow him to be in ministry since the eighties. Now that he has been convicted and is serving a 50 year prison sentence, Rome takes notice and defrocks him. Once a person is caught, they want to distance theirselves from him.

Catholic Free Press
Sept. 9, 2011

Seventy-year-old Thomas H. Teczar, who is serving a 50-year sentence in Texas for sexual abuse of a child, has been declared no longer in the clerical state by Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop McManus has announced.
“This is the most severe canonical penalty the Holy Father can impose on a priest,” according to a press release from the diocese.
As a result of the pope’s decision, Mr. Teczar may no longer function in any capacity as a priest, the press release states. Ordained in 1967, Thomas Teczar has not had faculties from the Diocese of Worcester to minister publicly since 1984.

See full story at Catholic Free Press

Thursday, September 8, 2011

advice from the past

“Who is going to save our Church? Not our bishops, not our priests and religious. It is up to you, the people. You have the minds, the eyes, the ears to save the Church. Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops, like bishops, and your religious act like religious.”
----Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen,
before the Knights of Columbus, June 1972

Victims, justice and the new archbishop

Commentarty by Sr. Maureen Paul Turlish.
Sept. 8, 2011
Sr. Maureen Paul Turlish is a member of the National Survivor Advocates Coalition and the Justice4PAKids Coalition. She was invited by Rep. Michael McGeehan to speak to the bills introduced in Harrisburg on March 1, 2011. She also testified before the Senate and House Judiciary committees in support of Delaware's 2007 Child Victims' Law.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who headed the Denver archdiocese, was installed today as the 13th head of the Philadelphia archdiocese in a ceremony held at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.
I welcome the archbishop to the city and church of my birth where I lived, studied and worked before entering the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, and where I taught in parish grade schools and chaired departments in two archdiocesan high schools.
I love my church and I am deeply committed to its mission in the world.
Having said that does not lessen the pain and shame of knowing that many individual priests have violated untold numbers of innocent children in the five counties that make up the Philadelphia archdiocese. Together with church authorities who protected these errant priests, all was done in the name of God.

The facts are documented right there, in excruciating detail, in the Philadelphia grand jury reports of 2005 and 2011.
Protocols said to have been put in place and followed by the archdiocese after 2005 were exposed as mere window dressing and PR spin like the archdiocese's cover story on Fr. Robert Brennan which Bishop Edward Cullen (an auxiliary bishop of the Philadelphia archdiocese before becoming bishop of Allentown in 1998) admitted in sworn deposition, "It's not the truth."
The church in Philadelphia never has been in more dire straits, and it has been in need of new leadership for a very long time. .........
It needs a pastoral leader who believes in justice, the rights and protection of all; especially those who were so unable to protect themselves as children.
It needs a pastoral leader who is not afraid to recognize and admit to the existence of corrupted man-made structures which allowed the church's sexual abuse nightmare to continue unchecked for so long. It needs a pastoral leader willing to work with committed groups of Catholic laity who are themselves deeply concerned over the systemic and endemic evil that has plagued the church -- despicable evils that, while committed by individuals, were enabled and covered up by complicit church hierarchs over many decades.

I welcome Chaput to the Philadelphia archdiocese but at the same time, I am deeply disturbed by a track record in Denver which is not all that one would wish for.
I am concerned about the use of Phase Line Strategies, a top public relations firm, which helped defeat long-needed legislation aimed at holding known sexual predators civilly accountable; predators who had already escaped criminal prosecution, irrespective of their race, color or religious affiliation.
I am concerned about the vicious opposition mounted against child abuse legislation supported by Colorado legislators including Gwyn Green who has said, "they [church leadership] read letters denouncing me from the pulpit ... and what they said was totally untrue."
Personal attacks on legislators by members of the hierarchy, local pastors or even by way of archdiocesan statements violate standards of both civility and propriety to say nothing of ethics and morality.
The bishops of the United States knew about the serious nature of sexual abuse in the early 1960s and they knew that priests were abusing children. A documented pattern of collusion, conspiracy and cover-up was the order of the day in dioceses both across the country as well as in Denver and Philadelphia.
Accountability for the crimes and sins of the present and future does not absolve anyone from the responsibility for the crimes and mortal sins of the past.
"Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God," (Mark 10:14).
If we don't help the poor, the disenfranchised, the innocent victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation who were unable to defend themselves, then we are indeed going to hell.
Without justice for all there is justice for none.

Full article at National Catholic Reporter

Government statement: response to Vatican

Irish Times
Sept. 8, 2011

Statement by the Government of Ireland on the response of the Holy See regarding the report of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne

The Government of Ireland thanks the Holy See for its response of September 3rd regarding the report of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne (the Cloyne report) and the representations made to it by the Tánaiste in this regard in his meeting with the Apostolic Nuncio on July 14th, 2011.

The Government acknowledges and welcomes the statement in the response that the Holy See is sorry and ashamed for the terrible sufferings which the victims of abuse and their families have endured. The victims of abuse and their families must remain foremost in our considerations.

Having considered carefully the Cloyne report and the response of the Holy See, the Government of Ireland remains of the view that the content of the confidential letter in 1997 from the then apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Storero, to the Irish bishops, regardless of whether or not it was intended to do so, provided a pretext for some members of the clergy to evade full co-operation with the Irish civil authorities in regard to the abuse of minors. This is a matter of great concern to the Irish Government.

The Government of Ireland notes the comments in the Holy See’s response on the political debate which ensued in Ireland after the publication of the Cloyne report and in particular the statements made by the Taoiseach and other political leaders.

The Government of Ireland must point out that the comments made by the Taoiseach and other political leaders accurately reflect the public anger of the overwhelming majority of Irish people at the failure of the Catholic Church in Ireland and the Holy See to deal adequately with clerical child sexual abuse and those who committed such appalling acts.

It is the Government of Ireland’s hope that, in spite of outstanding differences, lessons have been learned from appalling past failures. In this regard, it welcomes the commitment in the concluding remarks of the Holy See’s response to a constructive dialogue and co-operation with the Government. In welcoming this commitment the Government expects the fullest co-operation from the Holy See, the Catholic Church in Ireland and all other relevant bodies with a view to ensuing that Ireland is a society fully safe for children and minors and that all of those with responsibility for the welfare and care of children in this country are fully subject to Irish laws and requirements.

Advice for new archbishop: real Catholic agenda way broader than abortion

Sept. 8, 2011
Philadelphia Inquirer

WHEN POPE Benedict XVI transferred Archbishop Charles Chaput from Denver to Philadelphia, one of the nation's most prominent Catholic archdioceses, the appointment captured the attention of faithful Catholics, the media and undoubtedly a few nervous elected officials.
The archbishop has earned a reputation as one of the church's most outspoken conservatives. During the 2004 presidential race, he warned Catholics they would be "cooperating in evil" if they voted for Democrat John Kerry, a devout Catholic who does not favor criminalizing abortion but whose positions on support for pregnant women, immigration reform, nuclear disarmament and other issues align with Catholic teaching. The archbishop has also scolded the University of Notre Dame for honoring President Obama and, in contrast to most of his fellow bishops, insists that Catholic politicians who depart from church teaching on abortion should be denied communion.

Chaput's appointment is likely to have national implications in the 2012 election. As the presidential campaign gains momentum, Pennsylvania Catholics will again be aggressively courted as swing voters in this battleground state. GOP presidential candidates Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum are staunch Christian conservatives. "Values voters" are back in the news. If history is any guide, Catholic voters in Pennsylvania will be key to who wins the White House.

Despite the media fixation on the religious right, the Public Religion Research Institute and other experts on faith in politics consistently find that most religious voters reject a culture-war approach to politics and instead embrace a broad spectrum of values - protecting the poor from budget cuts, passing immigration reform, expanding health care to all Americans and building a moral economy.

A disproportionate focus on criticizing politicians who do not accept that criminalizing abortion is the only way to solve this terrible problem gives the false impression that the Catholic Church is a religious wing of the Republican Party. Elected officials who support the death penalty, demonize immigrants and slash programs that protect the poor and most vulnerable, all in contradiction to church teaching, rarely receive the sort of public rebukes Chaput and other conservative Catholic bishops direct at those who deviate from the church position on abortion.


Philadelphia will officially welcome its new archbishop today with an installation Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Ss. Peter and Paul. The pageantry of a ceremony both solemn and joyous will soon give way to sobering realities. Five years after a grand jury excoriated archdiocesan leaders for protecting abusive priests, a new grand jury report unsealed in February found that nothing had changed. Chaput arrives in an archdiocese where three priests have been indicted for sexual assaults on children and another priest, an archdiocesan official, has been charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of children. Philadelphia has replaced Boston as the epicenter of the clergy child-sexual-abuse crisis in the U.S.

The archbishop has pledged to do all he can to address this crisis. The pope has tasked him with other sensitive assignments in the past, and the archbishop has demonstrated integrity and strong leadership in carrying them out.

As a former chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Youth, I encourage Chaput to bring fierce urgency to the daunting task of rebuilding trust among the Catholic faithful in Philadelphia who have been wounded by the clergy's sexual abuse of children and his predecessors' collusion in it.

Until this task is accomplished, Chaput would be well-advised to leave politics aside. Issuing divisive political rebukes will only undermine his ability to minister to a city in desperate need of healing

Full article at Philadelpia Inquirer