Monday, October 31, 2011

Church braced for wave of sex abuse charges

Irish Times
Nov. 1, 2011

FOR YEARS, the Catholic Church in England and Wales has prided itself that it has handled matters better than the Catholic Church in Ireland.

It has done so despite being faced with repeated court cases involving clerics and stonewalling in the face of questions. Now, however, it is facing trouble at every turn, beginning with the affair of a missing monk, Laurence Soper (80), who has incredibly been on the run for seven months since failing to turn up for police questioning.

Meanwhile, an examination of its child-safety guidelines in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset is under way following the jailing last week of one of the church’s own child-protection officers for having pornographic images of children.

Ealing Abbey features prominently in the church’s difficulties.

Described as London’s leading independent Catholic co-educational school, it has a proud academic record, with three-quarters of its pupils last year winning top A-Level grades.

In 2009, however, Fr David Pearce was jailed for eight years for abusing five students while a teacher. Another teacher, John Maestri, was imprisoned in 2003 after admitting three counts of indecently assaulting young boys between 1980 and 1984.

Now, Soper – once Ealing’s abbot – is a fugitive from justice after he left a monastery in Rome in March to travel to London to meet detectives who wanted to question him about allegations of misconduct at the school. He disappeared.

He had served in Ealing, first as a teacher from 1972 and later as its head until he moved to Rome a decade ago. There he served as treasurer of the International Benedictine Federation’s treasurer.

Nearly nine months on, a European arrest warrant is likely to be issued.

Condemning his predecessor’s flight “without reservation”, Abbot Martin Shipperlee said the monks had “heard nothing from him since and all efforts to contact him have been without success”.

A report into conduct at Ealing from top QC Lord Alex Carlile is to be shared with the monks and published next week, while a Vatican-ordered apostolic visitation has already reported to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome after visiting last month.

The inspection was to ensure that guidelines put in place in England and Wales in 2002, which were revised in 2007, had been “followed to the letter”, the Bishops Conference of England and Wales said last month.

“The Catholic Church in England and Wales is determined to ensure its robust safety procedures are followed and this visitation is consistent with that aim.

“Any person with an allegation of abuse is urged to report it to the statutory authorities,” the bishops said.

In 2008 Bishop Vincent Nichols, who is now the Archbishop of Westminster but was then chairman of the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults, said the church could be “proud” of the progress made in the previous six years.

However, the church’s confidence has been further eroded by the trial of Chris Jarvis, who ran the diocese of Plymouth’s child-abuse investigations for nine years until he was arrested for having more than 4,000 images of children being sexually abused on his computer.

Jarvis interviewed alleged victims, had full access to all confidential files on known cases and handled criminal records checks on those needing clearance to work with children throughout the Plymouth diocese.

So far, Bishop of Plymouth Christopher Budd says that a review shows that Jarvis handled all of cases in the last three years properly, but he has brought in the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children to investigate further.

One of the cases that came before Jarvis was that of another Benedictine house, Buckfast Abbey, where two monks have been jailed – one for 10 years – for abuse committed against pupils in its now-closed preparatory school.

Sentencing him last week, Judge Paul Darlow said: “The people who confided in you of their own misery and abuse may well be horrified that the person they were speaking to was, in his personal life, downloading images of children being abused in the same way.”

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bishop Slattery on Prayer, the Mass and new vocations

Jim Graves
National Catholic Register
Oct. 28, 2011

Bishop Edward Slattery, 71, was born and raised in Chicago. He attended the archdiocese’s Mundelein Seminary and was ordained a priest in 1966. He served in Chicago parishes and was active with the Catholic Church Extension Society, which funds the American home missions.

In 1994, he was ordained a bishop by Pope John Paul II and installed as the third bishop of the Diocese of Tulsa, Okla. He is noted for his orthodoxy and piety and has publicly advocated a reform of the liturgy. As the Church prepares for the official promulgation of the new translation of the liturgy on the First Sunday in Advent, Nov. 27, he shared his thoughts on the liturgy, the priesthood and religious life, and maintaining a healthy spirituality.
You’ve made public statements about problems with the liturgy. What changes would you like to see?

I would like to see the liturgy become what Vatican II intended it to be. That’s not something that can happen overnight. The bishops who were the fathers of the council from the United States came home and made changes too quickly. They shouldn’t have viewed the old liturgy, what we call the Tridentine Mass or Missal of Pope John XXIII, as something that needed to be fixed. Nothing was broken. There was an attitude that we had to implement Vatican II in a way that radically affects the liturgy.

What we lost in a short period of time was continuity. The new liturgy should be clearly identifiable as the liturgy of the pre-Vatican II Church. Changes, like turning the altar around, were too sudden and too radical. There is nothing in the Vatican II documents that justifies such changes. We’ve always had Mass facing the people as well as Mass ad orientem [“to the east,” with priest and people facing the same direction]. However, Mass ad orientem was the norm. These changes did not come from Vatican II.

Also, it was not a wise decision to do away with Latin in the Mass. How that happened, I don’t know; but the fathers of the Council never intended us to drop Latin. They wanted us to hold on to it and, at the same time, to make room for the vernacular, primarily so that the people could understand the Scriptures.

Full article at the National Catholic Register

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Irish priests push reform

Michael Kelly
The Irish Catholic
October 28, 2011

DUBLIN, IRELAND -- Ireland’s Association of Catholic Priests marked its first year in existence with a Dublin meeting at which more than 300 priests heard a call for an end to mandatory celibacy and for the ordination of women.

The growth of the association has been rapid, with 540 Irish priests -- or one in eight -- now opting for membership. However, the absence of younger priests, sometimes called the “John Paul II generation,” was evident at the gathering.

Fr. Kevin Hegarty, a member of the association’s leadership team, told the Oct. 4-5 meeting that what was needed was a church that would open its doors to “married priests and women priests.” It would benefit from secular insights, such as those on human intimacy and democracy, he said. It would work at developing a “healthy and holistic theology of sexuality.”

Hegarty said that church structures were a barrier to conversation and “despite the promise of the Second [Vatican] Council ... the church in Ireland failed to evolve a strategy that could learn from and contribute to the new consciousness.” An authoritarian hierarchical structure “is contemptuous of intellectual challenge and is fearful of leaps of the imagination. The consequences have flowed.”

In its first year, the Association of Catholic Priests led opposition to the new translation of the Roman Missal and appealed to the Irish bishops’ conference to delay the introduction of the changes. However, the hierarchy dismissed the concerns as “first premature and then irrelevant,” Hegarty said.

“In my 30 years as a priest, the sea of Catholicism has receded,” he said. “I have heard its long withdrawing roar. ... I have worked in a crumbling church. In 1981 it seemed as if it might be different.”

Dominican Fr. Wilfrid J. Harrington, one of the priests attending the meeting, said he was motivated to join the group because of “the betrayal of Vatican II over the past 30 years.”

“I now know, from our meeting, that Vatican II is not dead. Now I am aware that I belong to a sizable group of priests, diocesan and religious who still believe in Vatican II. And, happily and vitally, not only clergy, but very many lay women and men.

“After our [annual general meeting] I confidently expect that membership of the Association of Catholic Priests will grow substantially,” Harrington said.


The Irish association has already established links with similar movements. Msgr. Helmut Schüller, leader of the Austrian clergy who have issued an “Appeal to Disobedience,” was a guest at the meeting, as was Fr. Bernard Survil of the newly formed Association of U.S. Catholic Priests.

Not all Irish priests who long for reform in the church are enthusiastic about Ireland’s Association of Catholic Priests. Fr. Paddy McCafferty, who is himself a survivor of clerical abuse and an outspoken critic of the Irish hierarchy, insists that the group is “not prophetic in the true scriptural sense.”


The reaction of the Irish hierarchy to the association has been at best indifferent. There were notably mixed opinions at the meeting of the Association of Catholic Priests, with many priests believing that the group must maintain links to the hierarchy while others dismiss relations with the hierarchy as irrelevant.

As the movement looks to the future all are agreed, however, on the necessity of reaching out to laypeople and ensuring that the voice of ordinary Catholics be heard in shaping the future of Irish Catholicism.
Full story here

Kaput with Chaput

Randy Ellison
Boys Don't Tell
Oct. 28, 2011

News item: Rep Louise Williams Bishop proposes bill that would eliminate Pennsylvania’s civil statute of limitations on child sex abuse. That means victims can sue the perpetrators and those who protected them once they heal enough to talk about it.

News item: The Catholic Church appoints Charles Chaput the new Philadelphia Archbishop. Mr. Chaput comes from Denver where he orchestrated the defeat of a bill to provide a one-year window on the statute of limitations for victims to seek civil justice from their abusers and protectors.

Hmm… connection? Naw, I’m sure this was just a nice promotion for this man of faith. I listened to the interview with the Philly Inquirer. He sounds real nice and talks Christian real good. Wants to help the victims heal and is sorry so many left the church.

He makes it clear that just as he believes in Jesus Christ and wants to help Philly Catholics be better Christians, he believes in the statute of limitations. He did not quote a chapter and verse from the Bible for that, but I’m sure it’s there somewhere, and probably goes something like this: After suffering for decades from being raped in the house of God, thou shalt not attempt to hold that house responsible for said rape. We merely opened the door and provided the room for said rape. Okay, we may have paid the rapist for his services, housed and fed him, and gave him a new place to rape from, once people complained, but really, to everything there is a season and the season for justice ends at age 30 in Pennsylvania.

While on the job in Denver Mr. Chaput led the Catholic faithful in a successful defeat of a bill to allow victims of child sex abuse their day in court. After the bill was introduced Mr. Chaput wrote a letter decrying the injustice of targeting the poor Catholic Church that was required to be read from every pulpit. There were also the 25,000 protest cards handed out after mass to be signed and sent to the state capitol. Alliances were formed with teachers unions and anybody else that might be held accountable for their direct support of child sexual perpetrators. Thanks to Mr. Chaput’s upholding of God’s law, the season for civil justice for victims of child sexual abuse in Colorado still stands at age 24.

Mr. Chaput’s thoughts on separation of church and state can be summed up in his own words: “Stuffing your Catholic faith in a closet when we enter the public square or join a public debate isn’t good manners. It’s cowardice.” He pointed to the vacuum of moral leadership in the world, and that what the world “needs more than anything else is holiness—holy men and women who love Jesus Christ and God’s Word more than they love their own careers and agendas.”

Side note: Mr. Chaput did not say, but implied that said holy leaders also need to limit or deny victims their day in court while protecting the assets of the church.

Conclusion: I want to wish Mr. Chaput all the best on his promotion to Philadelphia where he has the opportunity to teach people to be better Christians. And I don’t think it would be nice for any of us to speculate that he was put in that position not as a minister of religion, but as a fixer for the Catholic Church to once again defeat a law that would aid child sex abuse victims.

Disclaimer: I want to say that I have nothing against Catholics or any other religious organization, BUT DAMN IT, when are you people going to quit acting like CEO’s, drop that corporate attitude and start acting like people of faith? Walk your talk.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Exodus as pope's Legion reform lags

The Associated Press

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
VATICAN CITY — When Pope Benedict XVI took over the disgraced Legion of Christ religious order last year, expectations were high that heads would roll over one of the greatest scandals of the 20th century Roman Catholic Church.

One year later, none of the Legion's superiors has been held to account for facilitating the crimes of late founder Rev. Marciel Maciel, a drug addict who sexually abused his seminarians, fathered three children and created a cult-like movement within the church that damaged some of its members spiritually and emotionally.

An Associated Press tally shows that disillusioned members are leaving the movement in droves as they lose faith that the Vatican will push through the changes needed. The collapse of the order, once one of the most influential in the church, has broader implications for Catholicism, which is shedding members in some places because the hierarchy covered up widespread sexual abuse by priests.

In an exclusive interview, the man tapped by Benedict to turn the Legion around insisted that the pope tasked him only with guiding the Legion and helping rewrite its norms — not "decapitating" its leadership or avenging wrongdoing.

Cardinal Velasio De Paolis ruled out any further investigation into the crimes of Maciel, who as a favorite of Pope John Paul II had been held up as a living saint despite well-founded allegations — later proven — that he was a pedophile.

"I don't see what good would be served" by further inquiry into a coverup, the Italian cardinal said. "Rather, we would run the risk of finding ourselves in an intrigue with no end. Because these are things that are too private for me to go investigating."

The Holy See knew of the pedophile accusations, yet for years ignored his victims — as well as complaints about his cult-like sect — because he attracted men and money to the priesthood. As it is, John Paul's legacy was marred by his close association with Maciel; Benedict's legacy, already tarnished by the sex abuse scandal, may well rest in part on how he cleans up Maciel's mess.

Critics, including some Vatican officials, contend De Paolis has an obligation to uncover the truth and take more radical action, given that the Vatican itself found Maciel created a twisted, abusive order to cater to his double life.

The Vatican also determined that for the Legion to survive it must be "purified" of the influence of Maciel, who died in 2008, since its very structure and culture had been so contaminated by his obsession with obedience and secrecy. Members were forbidden from criticizing their superiors, were isolated from their families, and told how to do everything from praying to eating an orange.

In the absence of radical change, the movement has seen a dramatic decline in membership since the scandal was revealed in 2009.

An estimated 70 of the 890 Legion priests and upwards of a third of the movement's 900 consecrated women have left or are taking time away to ponder their future. Seminarians have fled — 232 last year alone, an unusually high 16 percent dropout rate for one year. New recruits are expected to number fewer than 100 this year, half what they averaged before the scandal.

The AP compiled the figures based on interviews with more than a dozen current and former members, who outlined inconsistencies in partial statistics provided by the Legion.

In August, about 20 current and former Legion priests met secretly for a week in Cordoba, Spain, to discuss forming an association to support Legion priests who leave the order, participants told the AP. The move could well encourage more to leave.

And earlier this month, the six editors of the Legion-affiliated Catholic news agency Zenit quit en masse, following the resignation of Zenit's founder. He had cited differences in editorial vision and a loss of trust with the Legion's superiors over the way they covered up Maciel's crimes.

The Rev. Richard Gill, a prominent U.S. Legion priest until he left the congregation in 2010 after 29 years, has openly criticized De Paolis' efforts, particularly his refusal to remove compromised superiors, saying "dismissals will be needed to restore some measure of confidence in the Legion."

He called for an investigation into the origins of the scandal and noted that for most of the 70-odd priests who have left, "loss of trust in the leadership has been the primary reason."

Claudia Madero left the movement in August after living like a nun for 35 years, citing the refusal of her Mexican superiors and De Paolis to embrace change.

"It's true there have been some changes, but these are incidental, not essential," she wrote in her resignation letter.

Benedict, however, gave De Paolis an unofficial vote of confidence last month when he kept him on as his Legion envoy while letting the 76-year-old Italian retire as head of the Vatican's economics office.

Benedict's spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, declined to say if the pope thought De Paolis' mandate should be changed given the exodus, saying the cardinal speaks for himself.

Legion spokesman the Rev. Andreas Schoeggl, meanwhile, gave De Paolis a thumbs up, saying his work had been "great," with all Legion priests helping rewrite the order's constitutions — a shift from the past when decisions were made only at the top.

Yet if the current membership trends continue, the Legion may simply wither away as fewer people join a scandal-tainted congregation that the Vatican itself said has no clearly defined "charism" — a church term for the essential spirit that inspires a religious order and makes it unique.

After all, what would happen to the Franciscans if St. Francis were discredited? The Missionaries of Charity if Mother Teresa were found to be a fraud?

De Paolis paused when asked to define the Legion's charism. "Bella domanda," he said — "good question." Noting that it was a work in progress, De Paolis cited the Legion's evangelical zeal and insisted that even without a clearly defined charism, the vast majority of Legion members are happy, doing good work and serving the church.

But three current members of the movement say the reality is more complex: Some are thinking of leaving but haven't taken the leap, some are in denial of the extent of the scandals, while others are actively working toward reform.

Members have coined the terms "awake" and "asleep" to describe where colleagues are in discovering the abuses of the Legion system, a process that is complicated by the Legion's restrictions on use of the Internet and email.

And despite some changes, abuses continue: "Dissidents" are transferred away from their communities and subject to emotional harassment to test their resolve, three current members said on condition of anonymity because of fear of punishment.

De Paolis defended his commitment and approach to the reform, saying said he had "inserted" himself into the Legion's administration, expanded the Legion's governing council and shuffled some superiors around. He said he hasn't dismissed any superiors outright because he needs them to learn the complex details of the order's structure, culture and finances.

"How can I, someone who doesn't know the Legion, who knows only a bit of Spanish, enter saying I'm in charge?" he asked. "If they (the superiors) wanted to sabotage me, it would have been so easy. If I had made myself the superior, they wouldn't give me information, they would have hidden it from me." He said his priority was to persuade the Legion's leaders to sow change from within.

Maciel founded the Legion in Mexico in 1941 and it became one of the fastest-growing religious orders in the world, praised by Vatican officials who routinely celebrated Masses for the Legion and in Maciel's honor.

Victims began to go public in the mid-1990s with allegations that Maciel had sexually abused them as seminarians, but the Vatican shut down a church trial, only to resurrect it years later. Maciel was sentenced in 2006 to a lifetime of penance and prayer — an inglorious end for a man who had enjoyed unparalleled access to the pope.

In his interview with the AP, De Paolis revealed for the first time that the Legion had reached financial settlements with "four or five" people who said they were sexually abused by Maciel, paying a relatively modest $21,000 to $28,000 (euro15,000-euro20,000) apiece. Negotiations, however, stalled with one victim who demanded millions, he said.

No one has publicly accused top Legion superiors of sexual abuse. But few believe Maciel's closest aides were ignorant of his double life, given that he would disappear for weeks on end with thousands of dollars to visit his family and, by the end of his life, was openly living with his girlfriend.

Monsignor Rino Fisichella, who heads the Vatican's evangelization office, said last year that the Vatican would be wise to look at who covered up for Maciel inside the Legion — "those who took his appointments, those who kept his agenda, those who drove him around."

Yet some suggest De Paolis' reluctance to investigate the coverup is based on fears the revelations could point to complicity by Vatican officials, who defended Maciel even after the sex abuse allegations were established.

"With the Legion I believe there were some who knew, but very few," De Paolis said of Holy See officials. "The others saw that this group was blossoming, that it brought fruits, it offered a service to the church."

De Paolis says he wants to save the fruits, the good that remains in the Legion. But those who have been harmed insist the Vatican must assign blame where it's due and fix the wrongs, or lose all credibility.

"We're angry at the church for allowing this," said Peter Kingsland, a Catholic from Surrey, British Columbia, whose daughter was consecrated in 1992. "They could have claimed ignorance before, but they're no longer ignorant — and now they're a party to it."

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bishop Finn should have done more to protect little girls

Nancy Kelly Waters
Special to the (Kansas City) Star
Oct. 24, 2011

My profession makes me a “mandatory reporter.” I cannot, by law, look away or ignore signs of child abuse or child endangerment. I must report any suspicions to the legal authorities. I may inform my superiors but that does not relieve me of my personal duty to report.

Being a mandatory reporter is stressful. Very rarely is it a clear-cut case of abuse. A student might mention something or you might see something or overhear something that sets off a cold alarm. There is no choice once that alarm sounds. The legal, ethical and moral decision of what to do has been made.

As an employee of a school district, I must think only of the child. I cannot think of my personal best interests or the reputation of the school district. I cannot consider any potential awkwardness or bad feelings my call might raise in the family, or in the wider school community. I cannot worry that if my report proves to be unwarranted, I might be somehow targeted or complained about. My duty is to protect the child.

I am a cradle Catholic raised in Kansas City and educated in local Catholic schools. My great grandparents were married in a Catholic church in Kansas City in 1869. Of the children in my father’s family, 75 percent were members of the clergy. I am not anti-Catholic.

I am, however, outraged that the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocesan statement — released as indictments were revealed last week against the diocese and Bishop Robert Finn — denies wrongdoing and promises a vigorous defense.

Bishop Finn, what exactly are you planning to vigorously defend? Do you believe you are blameless? I believe you made a moral mistake when you knowingly let a suspected pedophile remain at large with no legal investigation merely because he worked for the church.

Failing to immediately report what had been reported to you, and failing to direct those in your employ to report their suspicions, appears to me to be illegal and criminal. You may be cooperating with authorities now, but what about when the principal of one of your diocesan schools reported that a priest was behaving strangely towards little girls? The minute you heard of the principal’s five-page report outlining the numerous, serious concerns that teachers and parents had about the bizarre behaviors, you should have picked up the phone to call the police.

When you later heard the same man had any suspicious photos of little girls on his laptop, you should have thought only of what was best for the children in your flock, not the priest’s reputation or your reputation or even the Holy Roman Church’s reputation.

Bishop, you should have thought only of your obligation to the little girls.

Does the diocese really believe that setting up a new “array of steps to ensure accountability for the children” (The Star, Oct. 16) can possibly succeed if the man at the top won’t admit his mistake in failing to notify civil authorities?

Bishop Finn, in my opinion you should have reported. You didn’t. Pay your fine. Do your time. Admit your guilt. They say confession is good for the soul.

Nancy Kelly Waters teaches history and lives in Leawood

Read more:

Few are welcome in this place

Jonathan Day is a consultant and writer; he is also the chairman of the parish council of the Jesuit Church of the Immaculate Conception (Farm Street) in central London.

Remember Bishop Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin? He told his diocese that communion under both kinds would be limited to “the Chrism Mass, the Feast of Corpus Christi, … the bride and groom at a Nuptial Mass, and [to] those so allergic to wheat that they cannot tolerate even low-gluten hosts.”
Now he has written a column in his diocesan newspaper on beauty and truth in the liturgy.
Like many essays of a similar stripe, this one starts out positive but turns to the negative. After a quick swipe at Lady Gaga – and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to bring her work into the liturgy – the column zooms in on the Marty Haugen song, “All Are Welcome.” You can find its lyrics online, but the bit that the bishop finds offensive is the chorus:
All are welcome, all are welcome,
All are welcome in this place.
He says to us that this cannot possibly be “appropriate-for-liturgical-use” because the chorus is not true and hence not beautiful.
And why is it untrue? In Bishop Morlino’s words, because “People who have little interest in doing God’s Will don’t fit at the liturgy.” Very well, then, let us bring back the ostiarii, in case someone who has little interest in doing God’s will turns up in the narthex. Have these visitors committed sexual impurity? Have they even thought about doing so? Out with them. Has this man called his neighbor “fool”? There’s the exit door. Has this woman been greedy, loving money more than she loves her neighbor? Sorry, not welcome here.
Eventually, the saintly Bishop and a few of his true followers – a very few – can celebrate Mass on their own, perhaps rewriting Haugen’s words:
Few are welcome, few are welcome,
Few are welcome in this place.

See the rest of the column at Pray Tell

Sunday, October 23, 2011

No end in sight for damages caused by Illinois priest

Jesse Bogan
St. Louis Today
Oct. 19, 2011

Jim Wisniewski's attorney was handed $6.3 million in checks a few months ago for the abuse the former altar boy said he suffered in the 1970s at the hands of an infamous priest named Raymond Kownacki.
The payout, delayed by a long fight for church records and appeals, was the fruit of a civil trial in 2008 that was the first of its kind against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Belleville.
Kownacki was one of 14 priests removed from ministry in the diocese in the 1990s, well before the national priest abuse scandal hit fever pitch in 2002. But he has become the largest liability of them all for the diocese, with no end in sight for future damages. And not just because Kownacki continues to refer to himself as a priest.
Wisniewski's case cleared a landing strip for others to follow.

The jury agreed that the diocese fraudulently concealed abuse, which kicked over the statute of limitations hurdle that the diocese had counted on to protect it from old accusations. Jurors not only levied $2.6 million in punitive damages, but physically embraced Wisniewski when it was over.
There was no question of guilt, said juror Joe Maguire, 68, of Smithton. It was just a matter of deciding damages.
"Good God, he should have been put in prison, and they kept moving him around," he said in an interview. "And who were the people moving him around? They should have been charged with something, I would have thought, for covering up for him."

The jury accepted the argument that Wisniewski didn't realize the onslaught of damage done to him as a teenager until he was well into his 40s. On Oct. 3, a similar case — John Doe S.W. vs. Kownacki and the diocese — landed at the St. Clair County Courthouse.
The diocese has publicly kept quiet, other than to say that it regrets any instances of childhood sexual abuse by a member of the clergy.
Ed Barbier, of the Southern Illinois Association of Priests, whose membership includes active priests in the Belleville Diocese, said the group wants Kownacki laicized, or defrocked.
"And further, that he should be held personally responsible both civilly and criminally for his actions," Barbier wrote in an email. "The Southern Illinois Association of Priests has also asked that those responsible for Kownacki's cover-up and frequent transfers be acknowledged and reprimanded."
It's possible the diocese has taken steps to laicize Kownacki and others, but the diocese would not comment.
According to one note read into evidence in the trial, he wrote to a boy frequenting the rectory at the time: "Come up to my bedroom. If I am sleeping or not and massage me. I need it. I love you. Ray."
He has not been convicted of a crime and thus need not register as a sex offender. He still receives benefits from the diocese, which lists him on its website as retired and on administrative leave.
Kownacki reports to have had a stroke around 2005 and has aphasia, which has affected his speech. But standing in his nursing home earlier this month, he was well enough to answer a reporter's question.
Asked about the Doe case, he said, "I don't care," and refused to say anything more.
He no longer lives there. A woman working the front desk Tuesday wouldn't provide a forwarding address.

Full story at St. Louis Today

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

There is still a clerical elite in the church


IF YOU are a 'paid-up' member of a church does it ever cross your mind how appointments are made within the organisation? It's probably true to say that the majority of people who read this newspaper belong to one of the major Christian churches in Ireland. And I presume that the majority of people who read this column are Catholics.

So have you any idea how your parish priest is appointed? Have you any idea how your bishop is appointed? Do you think you should have a say? Do you feel you play an active and meaningful role in the church? Or should all that sort of 'stuff ' be left to the priests and bishops? Have you ever sat back and asked yourself what the word church means? These are some of the questions the new Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) is asking among its members.

The ACP held its first AGM two weeks ago in Dublin's Green Isle Hotel. Among those who spoke to the group was Monsignor Helmut Schüller, former vicar general of the diocese of Vienna, who is the leader of the Austrian Priests' Initiative. The Austrian priests are asking their bishops for a far more open and transparent church, where people and priests speak openly and honestly with one another. They are asking for a church which concentrates less on fear and more on trust in the Spirit and Word of God.

The Austrian priests have taken their case to Rome and at present there is type of stand-off between them and the Holy See. The Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, the Dominican Christoph Schönborn, has been critical of the group. But latest reports indicate that he is willing to sit down and talk to them.

The new ACP in Ireland has been set up in the context or background of all that has happened in the area of clerical child sex abuse. Priests have felt isolated and let down by church leadership. But there is also an underlying belief among many priests that church leadership is aloof from people and priests and indeed, after all the turmoil and talk, there is still a 'clerical elite' that rules from on high, far removed from the tone and spirit of what the Second Vatican Council intended.

Those of you who attend Mass will be aware that a new Missal is being introduced. On the first Sunday in Advent it will be fully in use in all dioceses in the country. The ACP at their AGM pointed out that the new Missal has been introduced with little or no consultation. They argue that a small conservative group within the Vatican has forced this new translation on us.

There certainly are many strange aspects to the new Missal. The Opening Prayer is now called the 'Collect' - a word that was used before the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council. A word that has no meaning for large numbers of people who attend Mass. So why use such a word? Many of the prayers have unwieldy sentences that are difficult to understand. And then there is the issue of exclusive language. Although the new Missal is supposed to be a considerable improvement on earlier translations as regards inclusive language, it is more than disappointing to find some changes, eg, 'for us men and our salvation' in the new version of the Nicene Creed.

Every baptised person is a member of the church and each one of us has a role to play in the church community. The mission of the church is to make God present in the world and surely that can only be done in the style and the language of the time.

Different groupings within the church might complain and fear that the church might be hijacked. But there is also always the worry that the church could so easily be hijacked by its own clerical class. As Christians we believe that the Spirit of God works in our church. Don't ever forget, the Spirit works in and through all of us. And we owe our loyalty to that Spirit of truth.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Extreme makeover: the diocese

The following story, from 2006, describes how Bishop Robert Finn completely upended the Kansas City- St Joseph diocese when he took over. The authoritarian attitude and disregard for the people of the diocese was perhaps a harbinger of the future attitude toward protecting Fr. Shawn Ratigan from disclosure which has now won the bishop and the diocese criminal indictments and numerous civil suits.
Kansas City, Mo.
May 12, 2006

Perhaps nowhere in America has the transition from a church focused on social engagement and lay empowerment to one more concerned with Catholic identity and evangelization been more dramatic, or in some ways more wrenching, than in the Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., diocese since the appointment of Bishop Robert Finn.

Finn has brought the diocese, for decades a model of the former category of church practice, to a screeching halt and sent it veering off in a new direction, leaving nationally heralded education programs and high-profile lay leaders and women religious with long experience abandoned and dismayed.

The competing tensions in the U.S. church were outlined last year by Bishop Joseph Fiorenza of the Galveston-Houston archdiocese in an interview with NCR. In Fiorenza’s analysis, bishops in the past emphasized Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) document on the church and the world, while many of the younger bishops are emphasizing Lumen Gentium or Dei Verbum, Vatican documents on eccelesiology and revelation, respectively. In real life, of course, the split is never that neat, but practically it can mean a general refocusing of church efforts from large social issues and themes and concern about church reform to issues of Catholic identity, of catechesis, of adherence to stricter standards regarding liturgy and of faithful transmission of church teachings.

Finn has not used those categories to explain his actions, but the contrast between what has been and what he is putting in place could not be more striking. If, as Fiorenza suggested, that transition is one of the more important dramas unfolding in American Catholicism at the moment, in Kansas City it’s occurring at light speed.

Finn, 53, a priest of the St. Louis archdiocese and a member of the conservative Opus Dei movement, was named coadjutor of the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese in March 2004. The diocese comprises 130,000 Catholics in 27 countries of northwest Missouri. He succeeded Bishop Raymond Boland as ordinary on May 24, 2005. Within a week of his appointment he:

•Dismissed the chancellor, a layman with 21 years of experience in the diocese, and the vice chancellor, a religious woman stationed in the diocese for nearly 40 years and the chief of pastoral planning for the diocese since 1990, and replaced them with a priest chancellor.
•Cancelled the diocese’s nationally renowned lay formation programs and a master’s degree program in pastoral ministry.
•Cut in half the budget of the Center for Pastoral Life and Ministry, effectively forcing the almost immediate resignation of half the seven-member team. Within 10 months all seven would be gone and the center shuttered.
•Ordered a “zero-based study” of adult catechesis in the diocese and appointed as vice chancellor to oversee adult catechesis, lay formation and the catechesis study a layman with no formal training in theology or religious studies.
•Ordered the editor of the diocesan newspaper to immediately cease publishing columns by Notre Dame theologian Fr. Richard McBrien.
•Announced that he would review all front page stories, opinion pieces, columns and editorials before publication.

By most accounts, he reached these decisions without consulting any of the senior leadership of the diocese or the people in the programs affected. Virtually no one on the chancery staff knew of the changes until they were announced at a news conference two days after his appointment. Many parish staffs and priests would first learn of the changes when they read about them in the local or diocesan newspaper.

On the last day of work for the dismissed chancellor and vice chancellor and two members of the ministry center, people from across the diocese sent flowers and chancery support staff wore black as a sign of solidarity -- and mourning.

As his first year in office unfolded and as budgets were prepared for a new fiscal year, the new bishop’s priorities emerged:

•The budget of the Office of Peace and Justice was cut in half. One of two full-time staff positions was eliminated, and the other may be reduced.
•Support of the Diocesan Bolivian Mission, a relationship established with the La Paz archdiocese in 1963, was cut from $50,000 annually to $10,000 annually. Fr. Michael Gillgannon, the diocesan priest missioned to Bolivia since 1974, learned of the cut while home on leave in April.
•The Vocation Office went from a part-time priest vocation director to a full-time priest vocation director with a part-time priest assistant and additional support from the head of the newly established Office for Consecrated Life.
•A separate Respect Life Office was established to handle pro-life issues and battle stem-cell research.
•The diocesan-sponsored master’s program, administered for eight years by the Aquinas Institute of Theology, a Dominican school affiliated with Jesuit-run St. Louis University, was transferred to the Institute for Pastoral Theology at Florida-based Ave Maria University. Ave Maria is being developed by former Domino’s Pizza magnate Thomas Monaghan, who has funded a host of conservative Catholic efforts.

Finn upgraded a Latin Mass community, which has been meeting in a city parish, to a parish in its own right and appointed himself pastor. ( See accompanying story.) Later, he asked the parish that the Latin Mass community will be leaving to donate $250,000 of the estimated $1.5 million the Latin group needs to renovate the old church Finn gave them.

The new bishop “came with an agenda,” said Fr. Richard Carney, a priest for more than 50 years and a respected leader in the diocese. “He didn’t ask us who we are and what we are about. He looked at it from the vantage point of a coadjutor bishop and made decisions of what he was going to do about us. … Well, we’re not used to that kind of authoritarianism,” he said. “It didn’t show much respect for prior bishops who established it that way,” Carney said. “We feel beaten up.”

A lack of respect -- some say total disregard -- for what has been developed in the diocese during the past half-century was one of the foremost complaints among many in the diocese upset to find highly regarded structures and programs gone.

full story at National Catholic Reporter

Monday, October 17, 2011

Lack of women will irreversibly harm the church

Joan Chittester
Oct. 17, 2011

The story is an old one and I've told it before, but never has it felt so ominous as it does right now.

It happened this way:

About 15 or 20 years ago, I gave a series of conferences in a parish in Canada.

I like Canada a lot — its beauty, its pace, its seeming patience with conflict and its apparent calmer approach to otherwise disruptive subjects — subjects that lead to almost immediate choosing up of sides down here. Maybe it's the Brit in them. Or maybe, given their smaller population and more far-flung population centers, wildfire simply isn't as wild north the border as it is here. Whatever.

At any rate, what was already euphemistically called "The women's issue" here appeared at that time to be a great deal less of an issue to our neighbors to the north.

So I was surprised when the topic came up at lunch from the couple hosting my visit. More than that, I was surprised at what triggered it.

It wasn't the dearth of theology around the question of the ordination of women that piqued them. It wasn't the growing statistic on the coming decline in the priesthood that worried them. It wasn't the fear of merging parishes that troubled them.

On the contrary. They had a good parish, they said, a fine and loving parish priest, the kind of congregation that was family to them and the kind of faith to trust the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit among them.

What bothered them was their 4-year-old daughter. She was a quick-minded child. Precocious. Persistent. Confident. They knew, they told me, that some day, she would question the difference between what her brother could do in the church and what she could do. That would be years away, of course, but still — maybe more for themselves than for her — they were struggling, to no avail, to find a reason good enough to appease her, they said.

Then, suddenly, one Sunday morning after Mass as they sat at the family breakfast table, it happened.

"Mama," she said suddenly, "why don't we have any girl priests at our church?"

They looked at one another, dumbstruck, unprepared. Too late. There was nothing left to do now but be honest.

"Because, darling," the mother said, "our church doesn't allow girl priests."

The little girl pursed her lips and frowned. "Then why do we go there?" she demanded.

With the retreat to Vatican I in full force, this question and its answer get closer and closer.

Feminine language is fast being cut from the very prayers of the church. The invisibility of women is official policy again. Women have been removed from various church boards stealthily but steadily.

All talk of the restoration of the diaconate has been suffocated.

"If the diaconate is restored for women," an official spokesperson is reported to have said, "they will assume they can then be ordained to the priesthood."

It has not occurred to the spokesman, it seems, that the restoration of the diaconate for married men did not launch an assault on the chancery doors to require a married priesthood. Either that, or the old "you know how irrational women are" argument is being dusted off again, too.

And now, in places even in this country, some dioceses are denying girls the opportunity to become altar servers, despite official church acceptance of female servers since 1983 and the long-established practice in churches everywhere.

The idea that women are to be "seen and not heard" is fast becoming "neither seen nor heard."

Here and there, little by little, the hoary head of chauvinism, of patriarchy, of sick and petty and adolescent sexism is making one last desperate attempt to make us a totally male church again.

Correction: To make us a serving female church, a parading male church again. And all of it, as usual, in the name of God. In defense of the faith. In imitation of the church of Christ.

It’s one thing for a city council in Topeka, Kan., can reduce wife beating from a felony to a misdemeanor so they can save money by not prosecuting this endemic and dangerous holdover from the days of women as chattel. The Constitution will eventually resolve that one in favor of "liberty and justice for all."

But when a church can simply erase the women in its midst, refuse to discuss the subject and attempt to go on calling itself church, Christian and holy, that is another matter entirely.

Which is when I find myself thinking about that little girl in Canada again.

That little girl in Canada is still out there somewhere. She's in her 20s now — still watching, still wondering what church it is that treats her like the full human being God means her to be. She's out there determining what church it is that really looks like the Christians they claim to be. And she is out there deciding what church it is that not only preaches the Gospel but lives it.

From where I stand, it is clear that the church already lost a good proportion of one generation of women in the last 25 years and is now willing to lose the next one to reassert its maleness. The question rises again with new and demanding urgency for many: Why do we go there?

The answer to it will not only affect the women and their children for generations to come. It will affect the church in ways no number of male altar boys can begin to heal it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

BBC documentary exposes 50 year scandal of baby trafficking by the Catholic church in Spain

Daily Mail (UK)
Oct 16, 2011

Up to 300,000 Spanish babies were stolen from their parents and sold for adoption over a period of five decades, a new investigation reveals. 
The children were trafficked by a secret network of doctors, nurses, priests and nuns in a widespread practice that began during General Franco’s dictatorship and continued until the early Nineties. 
Hundreds of families who had babies taken from Spanish hospitals are now battling for an official government investigation into the scandal. 
Several mothers say they were told their first-born children had died during or soon after they gave birth. 
Identity crisis: Randy Ryder as a baby being cradled in a Malaga hospital in 1971 by the woman who bought him
Identity crisis: Randy Ryder as a baby being cradled in a Malaga hospital in 1971 by the woman who bought him
But the women, often young and unmarried, were told they could not see the body of the infant or attend their burial. 
In reality, the babies were sold to childless couples whose devout beliefs and financial security meant that they were seen as more appropriate parents.

full story at Daily Mail

This is really disturbing. First stories of baby stealing and adoptions from Ireland, then Australia and now Spain with the added touch that they sold the babies to well off people. It truly was an unholy alliance between the church and the fascists of Spain and Italy. And arrogance that they knew best who should have children. -MDF

Vatican will not intervene

International Business Times
Oct 16, 2011

A day after Bishop Robert Finn of the Catholic diocese Kansas City-St. Joseph was indicted on a charge of failing to report a priest's child abuse, the Vatican and Pope Benedict XVI said Sunday they would not attempt to interfere with the legal process.
"There is a legal procedure underway," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told AFP. "We have no intention of intervening in that procedure. Any intervention could be interpreted as interference."

full story at <a href=""> International Business Times</a>

Friday, October 14, 2011

Brazilian priests ask pope to end celibacy

Rio de Janeiro, 21 Feb.(AKI) - Brazilian priests have appealed to Pope Benedict XVI to change a church law that forces priests to remain celibate. 

According to media reports, a petition endorsed by 430 priests is to be sent to the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy requesting that the clergy have the right to choose celibacy or not. 

The document was approved at a national meeting of priests held in the monastery of Itaici in the state of Sao Paulo this week. The priests represent a total of 18,000 clergy across Brazil. 

The document outlines two options for priests - a vow of celibacy, mandatory for priests who have made chastity pledges in their respective religious orders or priesthood without any obligation to abstain from sex.

The priests also ask that bishops be able to ordain married priests whom they consider worthy of priesthood, and also those who previously abandoned the priesthood to be able have a family.

Clerical celibacy is practiced mainly by Roman Catholic priests and Eastern and Oriental Orthodox bishops as well as Eastern Catholic bishops.

The priests also raised concern about allowing divorced church members to have the right to religious sacraments as well.

Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, who heads the Congregation for the Clergy, is expected to receive the petition.

Kansas city bishop charged with failing to report abuse

New York Times
Oct. 14, 2011

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A bishop in the Roman Catholic Church has been indicted for failure to report suspected child abuse, the first time in the 25-year history of the church’s sex abuse scandals that the leader of an American diocese has been held criminally liable for the behavior of a priest he supervised.

The indictment of the bishop, Robert W. Finn, and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph by a county grand jury was announced on Friday. Each was charged with one misdemeanor count involving a priest accused of taking pornographic photographs of girls as recently as this year. They pleaded not guilty.

The case caused an uproar among Catholics in Kansas City this year when Bishop Finn acknowledged that he knew of the photographs last December but did not turn them over to the police until May. During that time, the priest, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, is said to have continued to attend church events with children, and took lewd photographs of another young girl.

A decade ago the American bishops pledged to report suspected abusers to law enforcement authorities — a policy also recommended last year by the Vatican. Bishop Finn himself had made such a promise three years ago as part of a $10 million legal settlement with abuse victims in Kansas City.

The bishop signaled he would fight the charges with all his strength. He said in a statement: “We will meet these announcements with a steady resolve and a vigorous defense.”

The indictment announced on Friday by the Jackson County prosecutor, Jean Peters Baker, had been under seal since Oct. 6 because the bishop was out of the country. He returned on Thursday night.


If convicted Bishop Finn would face a possible fine of up to $1,000 and a jail sentence of up to a year. The diocese faces a possible fine of up to $5,000.

Ms. Baker said that secrecy rules for grand jury proceedings prohibited her from discussing whether other charges were considered, such as child endangerment, a felony. But she said the fact that the bishop faces a single misdemeanor count should not diminish the seriousness.

“To my knowledge a charge like this has not been leveled before,” she said.

It also may not mark the end of the legal troubles facing the diocese in the case, which includes civil and criminal cases in federal court. Last month Bishop Finn and Msgr. Robert Murphy testified before another grand jury in neighboring Clay County. A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office there declined to comment.

The priest accused of taking the lewd photos, Father Ratigan, was a frequent presence in a Catholic elementary school next to his parish. The principal there sent a letter to the diocese in May 2010 complaining about Father Ratigan’s behavior with children. Then, last December, a computer technician discovered the photos on the priest’s laptop and turned the computer in to the diocese. A day later Father Ratigan tried to kill himself. The diocese said that Monsignor Murphy described — but did not share — a single photo of a young girl, nude from the waist down, to a police officer who served on an independent sexual abuse review board for the diocese. The officer said that based on the description it might meet the definition of child pornography, but he did not think it would, the diocese said.


Parents in the school and parishioners — told only that Father Ratigan had fallen sick from carbon monoxide poisoning — were stunned when he was arrested in May after the diocese called the police. He was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of taking indecent photographs of young girls.

The new indictment released on Friday said that Bishop Finn and the diocese had reason to suspect that Father Ratigan might subject a child to abuse.

It cited “previous knowledge of concerns regarding Father Ratigan and children; the discovery of hundreds of photographs of children on Father Ratigan’s laptop, including a child’s naked vagina, upskirt images and images focused on the crotch; and violations of restrictions placed on Father Ratigan.”

Bishop Finn said in his statement on Friday that he and the diocese had given “complete cooperation” to law enforcement.

Read full story at New York Times

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Survivors groups leave talks with church over abuse

Simon Caldwell
Catholic News Service
Oct. 12, 2011

LONDON -- Two sex abuse survivors' groups have withdrawn from "exploratory talks" with the Catholic Church in England and Wales on ways to improve the pastoral response to victims of clerical sex abuse.
Representatives of Ministry and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors and the Lantern Project said Oct. 11 that they would no longer participate in negotiations with the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service, which oversees the protection of children and vulnerable adults in the Catholic Church in England and Wales, because the church was continuing to "deny justice" to victims.
"I can see no merit in continuing to deliberate with the Catholic Church ... while at the same time I am having to support victims who are being crushed by the Catholic Church in the courts," Graham Wilmer, founder of the Lantern Project, said in a letter to colleagues.
"I personally can no longer stomach the idea of being an active part of the illusion of goodness and understanding the church is trying to create, so I am withdrawing from this particular endeavor," he said.
Ministry and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors announced its decision at an Oct. 11 meeting between survivors' representatives and the advisory group in London.
In a press statement, MACSAS said it had withdrawn because of "the manner in which the talks have been conducted, the lack of any coherent purpose, aims or objectives, the manipulation of these talks in the media by the Catholic Church, and the failure of the Catholic Church to acknowledge the duty owed to the many thousands of victims of abuse perpetrated within the Catholic Church and its religious institutions in England and Wales."

read full story here

Monday, October 10, 2011

Madison joins Phoenix in limiting communion under both kinds

Deacon Greg Kandra (Brooklyn)
The Deacon's Bench
Oct 9, 2011

Weeks after Phoenix moved to restrict use of the Precious Blood during Mass, it now appears that Madison, Wisconsin is moving in the same direction.

Fr. Z. broke the news:

On the site of the parish of the Cathedral of Madison in Wisconsin, where His Excellency Most Rev. Robert Morlino is, by the grace of God, the ordinary, there is a pdf of the parish bulletin in which it is explained that they are ending regular distribution of Holy Communion under both kinds.

The bulletin announcement says:

In the last couple of decades, Communion under both species (with the congregation able to receive the Precious Blood as well as the Sacred Host) has become routine in our experience. I knew (as many of you do) that Communion under both species was first introduced, on a limited basis, after the Second Vatican Council, and that it has become much more common since. What I did not know was that the widespread American practice of offering both species at most Sunday Masses began here under an indult (special permission) given by the Vatican in 1975, which expired in 2005…

…So, all over the United States, we now find ourselves needing to bring our practice into conformity with current regulations (and with the rest of the world). In his comments at Chula Vista, Bishop Morlino mentioned a few instances in which Communion under both kinds is still permitted: the Chrism Mass, the Feast of Corpus Christi, for the bride and groom at a Nuptial Mass, and for those so allergic to wheat that they cannot tolerate even low-gluten hosts. Beyond those occasions and circumstances, Communion can be offered under both species at celebrations of special importance. But it is clear that we will not be seeing Communion under both species as a weekly practice.

UPDATE: There’s an interesting dissection of the indult involved, and the GIRM, by Daniel Horan over at Dating God. His take:

It strikes me as nothing less-than an clerical overstepping and unnecessary demarcation of the clergy and laity. What are these pastors (by which I mean the Canonical notion of pastor) thinking? It seems, at least superficially, that it is an “in” and “out” club — who is and who is not permitted to receive from the cup. The only shred of juridical support is the technicality about who can and cannot clean the cups after Communion. Seriously, we have more important things to be concerned about. Provided the extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, with some very simple instruction and supervision of the presider, know what they are doing and are respectful — as the law demands — of their duty, then there should be absolutely no problem with their purification of the sacred vessels.

It is, one must admit, rather humorous that these men are so very concerned about who “does the dishes,” as it were. If only the married women who are oftentimes the extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist could instill such a fervent desire in their husbands at home, there might be fewer fights between couples in the kitchen after dinner!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Brazil's Roman Catholics shrink as secular rise

Bradley Brooks (AP)
Miami Herald
Oct. 8, 2011

Bruno Maragato went through the Roman Catholic Church's rites like so many others before him in this most Catholic of nations: baptism, first communion, confirmation.
But his next step was not part of the Vatican plan and, in fact, feeds a worrying trend for Catholics leaders. At age 16, Maragato left Christianity altogether.

"The religion didn't stick with me," said Maragato, now a 24-year-old journalism student. "In the past, the church was much more a part of Brazilians' daily lives. Today, young people can easily seek out other ways of thinking."

A new study by Brazil's top research institute finds Magarato's views represent a sea change among a younger generation of Brazilians and present a fresh challenge for church leaders already struggling to hold on to parishioners across Latin America.

At the start of the last decade, millions of Brazilian Catholics joined flashy Pentecostal congregations expanding in the world's biggest Catholic country. Now, Brazil's Getulio Vargas Foundation finds, the country's Catholics are still leaving the church and at a higher rate than ever, but many younger parishioners, like Maragato, are simply becoming nonreligious.

Experts say this new twist poses a more potent threat to Catholic leaders than earlier losses. Now, the church isn't just competing against the Pentecostals, but courting people who have decided organized religion has no part in their lives.

"It's the most important phenomenon in this study, the abandonment of religion and the Catholics," said Fernando Altemeyer, a theologian at the Catholic University of Sao Paulo. "A considerable part of the Brazilian youth today are agnostic."

What raises the stakes for the Vatican is that church leaders have been viewing Brazil and other Latin American nations as bulwarks against losses in Europe and the U.S., where sex abuse scandals have inspired many to leave the church. About half of the world's Catholics reside in Latin America.

The loss of young Catholics, in particular, means the church is giving up its chance for rejuvenation in the region.

Read more: Miami Herald

The new translation: divine inspiration or the grubbiest ecclesial politics

A very interesting article is posted at Catholica (Australia) by Fr. Mike Fallon of Scotland. It describes how the late Cardinal Winning of Glasgow spoke out in the name of all the English speaking bishops of the world (with their permission) to protest how the Vatican had changed the basis for translations of the liturgy, publishing the key document on the internet before the bishops had even seen it or had a chance to comment. It is long, but worth reading.

Fr. Mike Fallon
Oct. 2011

The late Cardinal Thomas Joseph Winning was the Archbishop of Glasgow between 1974 and 2001. His biographer, Stephen McGinty, revealed in 'This Turbulent Priest: The Life of Cardinal Winning' [Harper Collins 2003] that at the beginning of the new millennium Winning was both aware and suspicious of the intention of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW) to issue a document outlining new instructions on how Liturgical texts should be translated. He was also outraged at the disrespectful way in which the CDW treated the members of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) in particular its chairman, Bishop Maurice Taylor, his old college friend and a fellow member of the Scottish Episcopal conference.[1]
Cardinal Winning was greatly angered not only by the secret manner in which the document had been put together and then published, but also by its content which arbitrarily overturned the principles, approved by Pope Paul VI, on which ICEL had been basing its work for three decades. It made him even more determined to highlight what he believed to be the important issues at stake during the Consistory.

In order to be able to speak with the maximum degree of authority, he faxed a draft of his proposed intervention to the Presidents of the English-speaking Bishops' Conferences around the world, including England and Wales, United States and Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa asking for consent to speak in their name. He duly received the authority he sought.

When he addressed the Extraordinary Consistory of Cardinals on the afternoon of Wednesday 23 May 2001, he spoke in English and his address was translated into ten languages. He began by setting out the context of his unease:

'My particular concern is with relationships between the Roman Curia and the Episcopal Conferences. The Apostolic Constitution, Pastor Bonus [John Paul II's Constitution of June 1988], rightly defines the function of the Roman Curia as a service, or diakonia. It is a service to the Holy Father in whose name the various dicasteries [Curia subdivisions] act, but it is also a service to the College of Bishops. As diocesan bishops, we value greatly the insight, the pastoral concern and support we receive from the heads and collaborators of the various dicasteries here in Rome. I personally have experienced very warm and friendly meetings with many members of the Curia.'[5]
The Cardinal then spelt out the importance of this consultation and dialogue if the needs of the Church were to be best served; and what the consequences would be if this did not happen, implicitly suggesting this had been the case in the preparation and publication ofLiturgiam Authenticam.
'An essential element in genuine dialogue is that full information is available to those engaged in it. To engage in fraternal dialogue particularly before the publication of documents of far-reaching importance and with grave pastoral implications, is not to undermine or interfere in the work of the dicasteries. Rather it is in the interests of the whole Church as well as being the expression of the fraternal and collegial spirit which is the legacy of the Second Vatican Council.

If we are sincere in practising the principles of collegiality and subsidiarity, there have to be consultation and exchange of views prior to the publication of major Church documents. When such dialogue is lacking, misunderstandings arise and when, without due dialogue, major documents are published which appear to be contrary to previously established policies, these misunderstandings give rise to serious concerns, even to questioning the very reasons for the document and its canonical validity.'[7]
The Cardinal then went on to address the unsatisfactory manner in which the Documents were published and distributed by the Vatican.
'Moreover, given our modern communications technology, it is disappointing that major documents are released unannounced on the Internet. Not only does this mean that the bishops find themselves relying on others to bring these documents to their notice, but the secular media are able to deal with the contents of the documents before bishops have been properly briefed, causing misunderstanding and confusion among the People of God.
These strong words drew a mixed reception from his listeners. Stephen McGinty recounted what happened in the immediate aftermath of Winning's intervention:
'The speech caused great offence to Cardinal Medina Estevez who, quite correctly, read it as a direct rebuttal to his treatment of ICEL and the manner of the publication of Liturgiam Authenticam. Winning was relieved when two cardinals approached him afterwards and praised his words. At the end of the day Winning and Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor walked to the café within the building for an espresso….. In the café Winning was approached by Cardinal Estevez who was visibly angry and said, "You denigrated me in there." He then began to complain about the difficulty of his job, that it was forced upon him against his wishes. Winning had no time for either his evasions or his self-pity and was brisk in his response. "I didn't denigrate you. We're all adults here. We can speak as adults." At this point Estevez turned and walked off.'[10]
In light of all of the above, it is clearly inaccurate to claim, as many opponents of the New Translation have done, that the Conferences of English-speaking Bishopshave never taken the Congregation of Divine Worship to task over its successful efforts to interfere in, and seek to curb the rightful authority of, Episcopal Conferences, in this area. The various Conferences clearly supported Cardinal Winning's initiative and empowered him to speak on their behalf. The tragedy is that when he died, it seems they lost not only their spokesman but also their way. Indeed a decade later, the bishops seem to have performed a veritable volte-face: they seem to have surrendered their authority and no longer try to reclaim and re-establish their rights. For many of us, their increasing failure during these years to exercise their Episcopal authority in this area has been both sad and rather humiliating.
It would appear that our Bishops have allowed themselves to be bullied by Vatican officials who are actually in post in order to serve them. They seem to be embarrassed, and with just cause. It is after all the passivity of those bishops who have been in post for the past ten years that has landed us with a new translation of theEnglish Sacramentary in a style which the vast majority of English-speaking bishops neither asked for nor wanted: indeed, which it appears virtually no one except the officials in the CDW actively sought. But surely our bishops need to get over their embarrassment, and seek to begin to reclaim their rights. Power and control are addictive and it seems fair to assume that unless they are forcefully confronted by the bishops, the CDW, and indeed much of the Curia, will continue to act in an imperious and high-handed manner.
The Second Vatican Council articulated that ultimate authority rests with the college of bishops in union with the Pope. Unless there is strong leadership from a prophetic voice like Winning's, the respective roles of bishops and curial officials will become even more blurred and the rightful authority of the bishops will be further usurped. History shows the need for prophetic figures likeFrancis of Assisi and Catherine of Siena who, as loyal critics, challenged the status quo in the governance of the Church and were canonised for their efforts.
The question now is whether such a prophetic figure will emerge at this time in the English-speaking Church. Or will history show that the capitulation of the English-speaking bishops over the new translation effectively signalled the demise of the authority of local Episcopal Conferences and the subjugation of the clear teaching of the Second Vatican Council?


Full article at Catholica

Friday, October 7, 2011

Whistle blower sues Kansas City Catholic Diocese

Another lawsuit is being filed against Bishop Robert Finn and the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests sent out an e-mail today saying a "whistle-blower" is suing after being forced out of her job last month due to “her advocacy within the diocese on behalf of victims and changes in policy to prevent future abuses.” This all comes back to the Rev. Shawn Ratigan child-pornography case.

SNAP says Margaret Mata, a grant writer, is suing the diocese “to hold the (church officials) responsible for their retaliation, wrongful discharge and invasion of (her) privacy.”

Here's what SNAP says happened:

In May, Mata initially praised the diocese's response in the Ratigan case. However, Mata later pointed out to diocese spokeswoman Rebecca Summers that some of the diocese's claims in the case weren't accurate. She urged church officials to provide resources to families hurt or concerned about Ratigan's alleged crimes.

A few days later, Mata met "face to face" with Bishop Finn and offered to help, citing her more than 20 years of experience working in offender management and victim advocacy.

But later, diocesan CEO David Malanowski abruptly asked her, “I assume you are Catholic?”

Mata told Malanowski that she attended Catholic schools and is a Baptist. Malanowski ended the meeting. Mata's supervisor then took her business cards and "relieved her of her title” and told her that the move was based upon "risk management.”

In June, Mata's contract came up for renewal, and "the diocese unexpectedly pushed for an unprecedented, harsh and broad 'confidentiality order,' which only one other worker had been asked to sign," SNAP's e-mail says.

The diocese also “reviewed all of Mata’s email” and “discovered private information concerning (her) relatives.” The lawsuit says diocese officials began asking whether Mata or her relatives had ever been abused by a priest, and conducted an "investigation into her private affairs."

In July, Mata wrote her supervisors saying "she faced negative consequences due to her offer of assistance in the Ratigan scandal.” Another employee told Mata that the diocese was trying to push her out the door.

Then in August, Mata's supervisor met her at the airport at 5:55 a.m. Mata was flying to her grandfather's funeral. The supervisor took her computer, claiming she wanted to install virus-protection software on it. When the computer was returned to Mata, "key information had been wiped out and it became clear to her that her email accounts were being monitored."

Mata resigned the following month, citing this “level of distrust and intimidation.”

In a separate lawsuit, 42 abuse victims are suing Bishop Finn for "breach of contract" for failing to follow the terms of a 2008 settlement and for allegedly failing to report allegations of suspected sexual abuse to police. The lawsuit isn't seeking money, only to force the bishop to follow the terms of the settlement.
Full article is here

Polish Catholic journal criticizes church

Catholic News Service

A Catholic journal has criticized the Polish church’s handling of sexual abuse by priests, following repeated claims that local church leaders failed to confront the problem.

the Wiez bimonthly questioned whether the Polish church’s handling of abuse claims complied with Vatican instructions and whether the good of the church meant “the good name of clergy or the good of the weakest.”

Archbishop Andrzej Dziega of Szczecin-Kamien said he believed Poland’s Catholic bishops had their own “competence and experience” on sexual molestation and would not need a commission -- like that established by the church in neighboring Germany -- to examine abuse cases.

Leading Catholics have urged the church to adopt clear procedures for handling various abuse claims since the 2002 resignation of the Archbishop Juliusz Paetz of Poznan for molesting seminarians.

Other cases have involved allowing convicted abusers to remain in their parishes.

Philly priest abuse case back in court

Oct. 7,2011
The criminal priest-abuse case in Philadelphia returns to court Friday with several pretrial motions before the judge.

Defense lawyers for Monsignor William Lynn have asked the judge to move the trial because of pretrial publicity and lift the gag order that prevents them from responding to evidence filed in the case.

Lynn is the first Roman Catholic church official in the U.S. charged with endangering children through priest transfers. Three other priests and a teacher are charged with rape.

Common Pleas Judge Teresa Sarmina may also weigh the requested testimony of former Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua (bev-uh-LOK'-wuh).

Prosecutors want to call Bevilacqua to testify, but church lawyers say he is suffering from cancer and dementia.

Sarmina has also set aside three days later this month for hearings on the Bevilacqua issue.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Crumbling church, rudderless leadership

Crumbling Church, rudderless leadership

Fr Kevin Hegarty
a keynote address given Oct. 4, 2011 in Dublin at the first annual general meeting of Ireland's Association of Catholic Priests.

Loving the sea air, as I do, a few days after our last meeting in Portlaoise I walked Cross Beach near my home. It was the 7 June, the thirtieth anniversary of my ordination. Beside Cross Beach is Cross Abbey, a fragile, elegant, medieval ruin, tottering precariously on the edge of the Atlantic, a reminder that all things pass. It looks out on the wondrous island of Inis Gluaire where according to legend the bell for St Brendan's Mass freed the children of Lir from their feathered imprisonment. My thought strayed to a poem of Matthew Arnold, Dover Beach, where I reflected on the following lines:

"The sea of faith was once too at the full and round earth's share,
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd,
But now I only hear its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating to the breath of the night wind down the vast edges
Drear and naked shingles to the world"

The words struck a chord with me. Substitute Cross Beach for Dover Beach and Catholicism for faith. In my 30 years as a priest the sea of Catholicism has receded. I have heard its long, withdrawing roar.

As a priest I have worked in a crumbling Church. In 1981 it seemed as if it might be different. Ordinations were still frequent enough not to inspire any great excitement beyond a photograph and a paragraph of purple prose in the local newspaper. Our bishop Dr McDonnell ensured that the four of us to be ordained did not lose the run of ourselves. To put it mildly he was not noted for liturgical enthusiasm. He had made the economic use of words into an art form. He introduced the ceremony thus: "This is a great day for the diocese of Killala. Four young men are to be ordained to priesthood. Now let us call to mind our sins."

In retrospect 1981 was a placid time for Irish Catholicism. The golden glow of the papal visit still enveloped the institution. Now we recognise it to have been the last Ard Fheis of traditional Irish Catholicism. It induced a sense of complacency mixed with hubris - a deadly combination, as many sports teams have reason to know. The Irish people, it seemed, would remain semper fidelis, always faithful, without the complications of fresh thinking and renewed structures.

So, what happened? The historian George Dangerfield once wrote of the strange death of liberal England. We have witnessed the slow and sometimes strange last agony of traditional Irish Catholicism. Basking in the reflected glow of papal adulation and believing that the words of that awful hymn - a title for which there is much competition - He's got the whole world in his hands also applied to them, Church leaders left out of their calculations the effects of social change. In the age of the sat nav they hung on to antiquarian maps.


Despite the promise of the Second Vatican Council to dialogue respectfully, imaginatively and generously with a changing world, the Church in Ireland failed to evolve a strategy that could learn from and contribute to the new consciousness.

The nature of the Church's structures was a barrier to productive conversation. For the institution that had evolved over the previous two centuries - notwithstanding its considerable achievements - was authoritarian in structure, destructively clerical and obsessed with a narrow sexual morality. It is out of sync with the creative impulses of modernity. In its heyday it was impervious to dialogue.

There is torpidity about the Catholic Church in Ireland today. Take the preparations for the forthcoming Eucharistic Congress. Whatever else can be said about the Dublin Congress of 1932, and much can be said, it was a festive fusion of triumphant Catholicism and Irish nationalism that engaged hearts and minds. Now earnest emissaries from the Congress office are travelling throughout the countryside valiantly trying to drum up some enthusiasm. I am reminded of the observation made of Willie Whitelaw, when he was making a tour of constituencies as deputy leader of the Tory Party that he was going around "stirring up apathy". Or the exhortation of a now deceased Bishop of Meath, who in advance of the canonisation of Oliver Plunkett in 1975 asked the prosaic priests of his diocese "to horse up some piety" for the event.

The Church's official theology of sexuality fails to resonate with the actual experience of human intimacy. Most Catholic couples ignore Humanae Vitae's prohibition on contraception. I believe that Dr Garrett Fitzgerald was right when he claimed that this encyclical was crucial in the undermining of the Church's authority. People began to lose confidence in an institution whose teaching on this matter was so out of sync with their experience. Its insistence on compulsory celibacy for clerics is of the same ilk. Its teaching on homosexuality has been heavily criticised, understandably, I suggest, for its insensitivity. And then there have been the scandals of the sexual abuse of children by priests and religious, followed by obfuscations, cover-up, and carefully worded apologies. Howard Bleichner wrote in A View from the Altar: "By any measure the sexual abuse scandals have struck the Catholic Church in the US with the force of a tsunami, dealing the Church the worst blow in living memory."

Equally so in Ireland. The Ferns, Ryan, Murphy and Cloyne reports, in their cumulative and compelling detail, highlight the acute level of dysfunction in the Church. I don't sense that the majority of Catholic leaders in Ireland have actually got the extent of the breakdown in trust that these reports have engendered. The reports may not now dominate the daily headlines, but their effect has not gone away. I reckon that if Irish Catholics had a democratic way of reflecting their feelings on the subject, Church leaders would suffer a defeat as cataclysmic as that administered to Fianna Fail in the recent general election. Church leadership now seems divided and rudderless. Not since the nineteenth century has there been such public disagreement among the bishops. Cardinal Cullen's Tridentine temple has come tumbling down. For those of us whose lives were shaped by the influence of free speech, democracy, accountability and respectful academic dialogue, the Church has been a cold house for the last 30 years. For those of us who believed in the Vatican II-style Church - and its prospects influenced my decision to study for the priesthood - there has been lots of disillusion.


Graham Greene has written of the door which opens in childhood and lets the future in. In the sphere of religion that door for me was the Second Vatican Council. It promised a Church which would engage positively with the human condition in the modern world. It would contribute to the dialogue out of the wisdom of its lengthy tradition, but also learn from contemporary insights. I long for a Church in this mould. We need a new Council of the Church if only to recall for us the insights of the last one. As Seamus Mallon described the Good Friday agreement as "Sunningdale for slow learners", so might the new Council be.

As the theologian Edward Schillebeecx has written:
"I do not begrudge any believer the right to describe and live out his belief in accordance with the old models of experience, culture and ideas, but this attitude isolates the Church from any future and divests itself of any real missionary power."

Such a Church would open its doors to married priests and women priests. It would benefit from secular insights like, for example, on human intimacy and democracy. It would work at developing a healthy and an holistic theology of sexuality.

Unfortunately this is not happening. The glad, confident morning of the Second Vatican Council was a short one. In the aftermath hope was choked by the Vatican curia. For over 30 years the Church has recoiled from reform and returned to the incense-filled ghettos in defence of its traditional hierarchical structure. Its procedures are archaic and cumbersome and precious, utterly out of sync with the ways of the democratic world. It is suspicious of lay involvement. Only those who are seen to conform to its narrow views are admitted to the temple. So bishops are chosen on the basis of being in favour of compulsory celibacy, adherence to clerical dress, docility to papal teaching and above all against contraception and the ordination of women. Loyalty is defined in old narrow terms. And it is so fearful of the feminine. Misogyny is dressed up in theological abstractions.

......... he kept the door open to the future. Perhaps that should be the central imperative of the Association of Catholic Priests. Who knows where it might lead. As Leonard Cohen sings: "there is a crack in everything; that is how the light gets in

The entire talk is at The Tablet