Saturday, February 25, 2012

Attorneys: Cardinal ordered memo on priests destoyed

Feb 24, 2012

A Philadelphia archdiocese official on trial for allegedly covering up the sexual abuse of children has asked a court to throw out charges against him based on a 1994 memo showing Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua ordered a list of suspected abusive Catholic priests to be destroyed.

Attorneys for Monsignor William Lynn asked a Philadelphia court to dismiss charges of conspiracy and child endangerment based on documents that Lynn had informed his superiors -- including the cardinal -- that priests in the archdiocese were assaulting children.

"The recent unexpected and shocking discovery of a March, 1994 memorandum composed by Monsignor James Molloy, Monsignor Lynn's then-supervisor, on the topic of this review, clearly reveals that justice demands that all charges against Monsignor Lynn be dropped," Lynn's attorneys said in a filing.

As revealed in court papers filed on Friday, Molloy's handwritten memo dated March 22, 1994, informed Bevilacqua that the secret list of 35 priests had been shredded per his instructions.
"On 3-22-94 at 10:45 AM I shredded, in the presence of Reverend Joseph R. Cistone, four copies of these lists from the secret archives," Molloy's memo stated. "The action was taken on the basis of a directive I received from Cardinal Bevilacqua at the Issues meeting of 3-15-94 ...."
According to the filing, the document was discovered in a locked cabinet in an archdiocese administrative office. It did not elaborate on how the document came to light.

Bevilacqua, who died on January 31, testified 10 times before grand juries in 2003 and 2004. A final grand jury report said it had no doubt that the cardinal knew about the danger posed by the accused priests and that his actions endangered thousands of children in the archdiocese.
The grand jury also concluded that Lynn had carried out the cardinal's policies exactly as the cardinal directed.

"It should not be surprising to learn documents about child abusing priests were destroyed," said Marci Hamilton, an attorney who has represented victims in many clergy sex abuse cases, including suits against the Philadelphia archdiocese. "That is consistent with the pervasive pattern of secrecy and the rule against scandal."

According to the Philadelphia district attorney, this case represents the first time that U.S. prosecutors have charged not just the priests who allegedly committed the abuses, but an official who stands accused of failing to stop the assaults. Lynn had been responsible from 1992 until 2004 for investigating reports that priests had sexually abused children.

The grand jury alleged that Lynn knowingly allowed dangerous priests to continue in the ministry in roles in which they had access to children, according to the district attorney's office.
A gag order imposed by a Philadelphia judge in the case remains in effect, barring all parties involved in the criminal case from talking to the media.

Monday, February 20, 2012

German speaking priests mobilize against the "call to disobedience"

Pray Tell
Feb. 20, 2012

Pray Tell reported earlier on the Austrian priests’ “Appeal to Disobedience” calling for (more or less the usual) church reforms. Now another group of German-speaking priests, the “Netzwerk katholischer Priester,” has issued a statement opposing the reformist appeal, as reported by www. The statement of the “Network of Catholic Priests” says in part:

We are concerned about the reaction of those bishops in whose dioceses pastors have supported the Pfarrer-Initiative. So far, not one single bishop has called upon the members of the “Pfarrer-Initiative” ["Pastor's Initiative" - ed.] to renounce their position. Instead, reassurance is given on all sides that of course there will be no sanctions. “Understanding” is shown for the initiators’ “anxieties,” and invitations to “dialogue” are given… As a whole, the impression is given that the bishops are afraid to speak clearly and would rather look on as the Pope is undercut in his authority as pastor of the universal Church. The “Pfarrer-Initiative” is a sad symptom of the de facto schism which has long since come to be in German-speaking lands under the eyes of the bishops… We call upon the bishops to intervene decisively against the dubious “reformist efforts” of the “Pfarrer-Initiative” and expect clear allegiance to the Vicar of Christ on earth. Whoever continues in mere looking on sins against the unity of the Church. The clock is ticking.

The “Netzwerk katholischer Priest” is a group of priests, diacons, and seminarians of varying ages. It claims 500 members, though there is not explicit membership, but rather loose association among like-minded people.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fr. Georg: the eminence grise protecting Benedict XVI

Vatican Insider

From the moment Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope, even Avvenire, the newspaper published by the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), has focused on his secretary’s robust countenance, describing him as a “Blond, 1 metre 80 cm tall, athletic body and distinctly good looking man.” For a long time he was just the priest in a black cassock that took care of Benedict XVI’s agenda. More than a butler but not quite a spin doctor. Things have changed however since the “dossier war” broke out, in the Vatican, between the old guard who were close to Angelo Sodano and the current leadership loyal to the Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

As the successor to Fr. Stanislao Dziwisz in the second half of John Paul II’s pontificate, Fr. Georg Gaenswein has become the barycentre and mediator of a Curia that is writhing with poison pen letter writers and spies. This 50 year old man, who combines athletic build with the grizzled charm of Hugh Grant, is the son of a blacksmith from the Black Forest, a former postman and a Pink Floyd fan.


For the past decade he has shown complete dedication to Benedict XVI.


“The Vatican is also a court and so like in any court, rumours and gossip exist here too. But here there is also a conscious shooting of arrows aimed at very specific targets. At first I had to learn to live with this.” He also confided something which now looks like the fulfilment of a prophesy in the context of the burning controversy over the confidential letters written by the Governorate’s number two man, Viganò (accusing the Vatican’s Secretariat of State of corruption), the confidential documents on the IOR and the memorandum about an alleged attack against the Pope: “Indiscretions are certainly an Achilles heel. Unfortunately, there are always news leaks about nominations, the preparation of documents or about disciplinary measures. Not only is this unpleasant, but there is also a danger that outside influences could cause disturbances.” Right from the beginning, from his days at the Opus Dei-run Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, he was seen as an antithesis to the highly influential Dziwisz, who is today Cardinal of Krakow.


But now Fr. George is behind many of the decisions taken, smoothing the edges. His “baptism of fire” as “shadow leader” was anticipated three years ago in the Boffo case: he was person behind the scenes who was responsible for bringing peace to the clash between the Sacred College and Bertone and Ruini. And he seems to be developing a growing resemblance to the Stanislao “model”, the most influential man in the Vatican thanks to his ties to the Pope. In 2007 he confided to his fellow countryman, Peter Seewald, the writer, that he even “receives love letters now and again” and had experienced “clerical envy”.


. “Fr. Stanislao handed me an envelope which contained some letters and the key to a safe, a very old German safe; all he told me was: you have a very important and beautiful but also incredibly difficult task ahead of you. All I can say to you is that the Pope must not be crushed by anything or anyone; you will have to work out for yourself how to achieve this.” The content of that envelope is top secret: “They are things that are passed on from one papal secretary to the next.” This discretion will bode him well in an unruly Curia. Stanislao docet.

Full article at Vatican Insider

Benedict XVI stifles rumours regarding his resignation

Vatican Insider

“Pray also for me, that I may continually offer to the People of God the witness of sound doctrine and guide holy Church with a firm and humble hand.” The Pope that imposed the red biretta on the 22 new cardinals yesterday morning was gentle but firm, concluding his speech with a message that seemed to indirectly deny his forthcoming resignation. A number of people have been hinting at his resignation, particularly since the tensions in the Vatican, the leaked documents and the poisonous comments going round in an attempt to discredit one cardinal or another. All this portrays the Vatican as a place rife with scheming and people dossier fights. “It is not easy to enter into the logic of the Gospel and to let go of power and glory,” Benedict XVI repeated to the College of Cardinals, pointing out a different path yet again.


The words pronounced by Benedict XVI, who is well aware of the situation, relativized the current context. The Pope does not intend to flee at the sight of his foes, wants to get back to the heart of things; he sees the Church as a community of faithful, praying and trying to get close to God, he does not see them as a political and cultural phalanx or as a group of people planning conquest strategies. When one looks at what is going on in the Holy See, the message regarding the human shortcomings of clerics that the then cardinal Ratzinger had pronounced during the Jubilee, still ring true today. He recalled Cardinal Consalvi’s (Secretary of State during the pontificate of St. Pius VII) response to an ambassador who informed him of Napoleon’s intention to destroy the Church: “He will never manage to destroy it. Even we were not able to.”

see full article at the Vatican Insider

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Magisterium faces theologians' fire

Robert McClory
Feb. 17, 2012
National Catholic Reporter

The current position of the church's magisterium that all its teaching is to be accepted as definitive, authentic and binding and is not subject to disagreement is experiencing growing rejection by established Catholic theologians. Some telling samples of their views are presented in a chapter of the new book The Crisis of Authority in Catholic Modernity.
Gerard Mannion, a senior fellow at the Catholic University of Leuven (in Belgium)
argues that the very notion of magisterium must undergo a severe updating:
"I would suggest that any effective ... exercise of magisterium must free itself from and pretense of omniscience for, in reality, the character of its exercise in recent times would on occasion appear to hold more in common with the 'view from nowhere genre.' In other words, far from being grounded in fundamental and universally agreed upon traditions, pronouncements have ... appeared to claim an authority that transcends context, culture and history alike. And yet ecclesial authority is inescapably rooted and shaped by each of these factors."

What is needed, Mannion says, is "a truly dialogical and conversational commitment on the part of ecclesial authorities." This could come about, he writes, if "the life-giving principles of the Catholic social tradition" -- subsidiarity, co-responsibility and participation -- were to become "a fundamental part of discourse concerning magisterium."
Joseph Selling, a German author also associated with the University of Leuven, contends that official pronouncements, especially those dealing with morality, cannot form the sole basis of teaching; rather, the lived experiences of the faithful of God must be allowed to inform magisterium itself.

"The authority to teach in the area of morality within the context of the believing community," Selling writes, "is intimately tied to the matter of being taught." That is to say, authentic teaching comes from authentic listening.
Joseph Kavenagh, a Dominican based in Dublin, Ireland, decries "the kind of laziness when answers are sought simply through the formula of the law as though the lawmaker's role is simply to provide solutions and dispense the community and individual from wrestling with the complexities of their world." Kavenagh calls for "the restoration of critical memory," as an antidote to the declarations of legislators who claim exclusive ownership of the right to interpret law.

The legitimacy of respectful dissent is gaining the attention of a range of Catholic theologians cited in the book, including Linda Hogan, a professor of ethics at Trinity College in Dublin; Nicholas Lash, the British author and frequent contributor to The Tablet, and Kevin Kelly, a moral theologian at Liverpool Hope University in London.
They believe that the word "dissent," with its implication of disobedience and bad faith, needs to be resisted and dismantled, along with all the usual language associated with official teaching and its power to automatically demand internal and external assent.
Kelly sees the term as misrepresenting the very positive critical position that theologians are often obliged to take in relating to teaching authority: "The term dissent has no feel for all that is positive in such a position -- respect for tradition, shared responsibility for the church's mission in the world. It does not express the respect for teaching authority ... which motivates someone taking this kind of stance," Kelly writes.

The theologians discussed in the book, all Europeans, seem to echo some of the views of Charles Curran, who was punished for dissent regarding Pope Paul VI's condemnation of artificial contraception and banned by the Vatican from teaching theology at Catholic institutions in 1986. Yet I could find no evidence that any of these theologians have been similarly chastised. Recent actions taken against American theologians like Elizabeth Johnson suggest the Vatican is more likely to take offense about what goes on this side of the Atlantic, and high church officials are more likely to reaffirm when necessary the operative position on magisterial teachings.

That point was made clear by Chicago's Cardinal Francis George, who wrote on the archdiocesan website Feb. 14 concerning the current church-and-state controversy: "What isn't always understood is that the Bishops of the Church make no attempt to speak for all Catholics; they never have. The Bishops speak for the Catholic and apostolic faith, and those who hold that faith gather around them. Others disperse."

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Attorney for Kansas City bishop file for dismissal of criminal charges

The Republic (Columbus,IN)
Feb. 15, 2012

Kansas City,MO - Attorneys for a Missouri Catholic bishop are asking a court to dismiss a misdemeanor charge that he failed to report suspected child abuse by a priest.

On Wednesday, attorneys of Bishop Robert Finn filed four motions seeking dismissal of the charge, each based on different legal arguments. Another motion seeks to have the bishop tried separately from the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, which faces the same charge.

The Kansas City Star reports ( that a spokesman for Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said the office was not surprised by the motions and would oppose them.

Prosecutors say Finn and the diocese waited five months before telling police about pornographic photos of children found on a priest's computer.

Finn has pleaded not guilty.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dolan: revised mandate won't solve problems

Francis X. Rocca, Catholic News Service
February 13, 2012

ROME -- Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan of New York said Feb. 13 that President Barack Obama's proposed revision to the contraceptive mandate in the health reform law did nothing to change the U.S. bishops' opposition to what they regard as an unconstitutional infringement on religious liberty.

"We bishops are pastors, we're not politicians, and you can't compromise on principle," said Cardinal-designate Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. "And the goal posts haven't moved and I don't think there's a 50-yard line compromise here," he added.
"We're in the business of reconciliation, so it's not that we hold fast, that we're stubborn ideologues, no. But we don't see much sign of any compromise," he said.

"What (Obama) offered was next to nothing. There's no change, for instance, in these terribly restrictive mandates and this grossly restrictive definition of what constitutes a religious entity," he said. "The principle wasn't touched at all."

Obama's proposed revision of the Department of Health and Human Services' contraceptive mandate left intact the restrictive definition of a religious entity and would shift the costs of contraceptives from the policyholders to the insurers, thus failing to ensure that Catholic individuals and institutions would not have to pay for services that they consider immoral, Cardinal-designate Dolan said.

For one thing, the cardinal-designate said, many dioceses and Catholic institutions are self-insuring. Moreover, Catholics with policies in the compliant insurance companies would be subsidizing others' contraception coverage. He also objected that individual Catholic employers would not enjoy exemption under Obama's proposal.

"What we're probably going to have to do now is be more vigorous than ever in judicial and legislative remedies, because apparently we're not getting much consolation from the executive branch of the government," he said.

The cardinal-designate said the bishops are "very, very enthusiastic" about the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act, introduced by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., which he said would produce an "ironclad law simply saying that no administrative decrees of the federal government can ever violate the conscience of a religious believer individually or religious institutions."
"It's a shame, you'd think that's so clear in the Constitution that that wouldn't have to be legislatively guaranteed, but we now know that it's not," he added.

"You'd think that (the Obama administration) would be able to read the tea leaves, that these things are going to be overthrown," the cardinal-designate said.

see full story at National Catholic Reporter

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Catholic church stance on contraception policy speaks to subordination of women

John Farmer
Star-Ledger (NJ)
Feb. 12,2012

The squabble over whether Catholic social service institutions, universities and hospitals must offer insurance covering contraception under the new health plan contains a subplot with roots deep in history.

It’s the relationship between women and organized religion — a relationship that, over the centuries, has been hostile to the aspirations of women for a larger role in the family, the world and religion itself.

A little history is needed here.
Women — as well as men — have, through the ages, experienced the same spiritual stirrings that give rise to faith and firm religious beliefs. But organized religion, with its churches, synagogues, mosques, feasts and rituals, has, from the beginning, been exclusively the creation of men.

Moreover, the bureaucracies that have grown up to run these religions — and to promulgate their codes of moral right and wrong — have, from the beginning, been the work of men. Women had little or no say in this overarching influence in their lives.

Here’s one conservative religious view of woman’s role as expressed by A.H. Strong, president of the Rochester Theological Seminary, in a mid-19th century essay: “She is subject to man,” he wrote. “She is to be helper, not principal. Man has preference in creation, woman is made of man and to supply the felt needs of man.” (How nice for man.)

Even in the modern world, women occupy a subordinate role. Some fundamentalist or ultra-orthodox sects even prohibit women from worshiping in the same room with men. In some Islamic lands, women can’t leave home unless accompanied by a male relative, a rule enforced by “religious police.”

Organized religion, in short, has been a clerical stag party.

It is against this historical background that the tussle between what religious conservatives see as a First Amendment right and many women see as a health issue will be played out over contraceptive coverage.

The marginalization of women is just one characteristic of most major religions. The other, in one degree or another, is authoritarianism. They are not democratic institutions.
Their leaders don’t care much for doctrinal dissent. And they have a point. Why should they give any heed to dissent if they believe they’re following the divine will, that they’re doing God’s work? How can they be wrong?

In centuries past, dissent was punished by imprisonment, torture, even death. The Gnostics, who broke from Catholicism in its early days, were persecuted for several heresies, including a belief that women were, in God’s great plan, the equal of men. (Whatever gave them that idea?)
Some extreme Islamic sects still stone women to death even today, especially for adultery. (Men get a pass on this one.) Similar punishments are meted out by some Hindu extreme fundamentalists.


Full article at Star-Ledger

Saturday, February 11, 2012

US Catholic bishops oppose Obama birth control plan

James Vicini
Feb. 11, 2012
(Reuters) - U.S. Catholic Church leaders said they will fight President Barack Obama's controversial birth-control insurance coverage policy despite his compromise that religious employers would not have to offer free contraceptives for workers, shifting the responsibility to insurers.

In an abrupt policy shift aimed at trying to end a growing election-year firestorm, Obama on Friday announced the compromise.

But the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said its concerns were not addressed and cited "serious moral concerns."

In a statement issued Friday evening, the bishops said Obama's proposal "continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions, and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions."

"We will therefore continue - with no less vigor, no less sense of urgency - our efforts to correct this problem through the other two branches of government," the bishops said in urging Congress to take action to overturn the rule.

See full article at Reuters

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Bishops don't speak for most Catholics on contraception

Keith Soko
Feb. 3, 2012

Editor's note: Keith Soko is associate professor of religious ethics and moral theology at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa. He teaches courses in bioethics and health care, social justice, peace and justice in comparative religions, and moral issues.

Recently, the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Religious Liberty argued that the Obama administration's requirement that most health insurance plans cover contraception goes against "the mandate of Jesus Christ."
But Jesus said nothing about contraception coverage, of course, or most any other issues related to sexuality. So, what is the issue?
The current mandate would require that Catholic institutions like universities and hospitals include coverage for contraception and sterilization, although it exempts Catholic parishes. Official Catholic teaching is against contraception and sterilization. But this issue goes beyond internal Catholic Church concerns and moves into the public arena. The U.S. Catholic bishops and other conservative Christian groups have argued that the Obama administration's requirement wars with religious liberty and the role of conscience.
Last Sunday, at least 100 bishops had letters read at masses in their dioceses imploring Catholics to oppose this coverage. Newspapers have carried stories of Catholic bishops making apocalyptic predictions that Catholic universities and hospitals would have to close their doors if this coverage is allowed. But who is really making this argument besides the bishops and a minority of conservative Catholics and Christians, especially when studies show that 98% of sexually active Catholic women have used contraceptives?

First, a brief history. Since the 1930s and the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church, most Christian denominations have allowed for contraceptives, leaving the decision up to married couples. The Catholic Church rejected that position, standing relatively alone on the issue, and has allowed, since 1951, only the rhythm method for birth control (this is now called natural family planning).

Catholics upset with contraception rules
When the Catholic Church went through changes in the 1960s, during the Second Vatican Council, or Vatican II (1962-1965), the pope formed a committee outside of the council to evaluate the stand against contraceptives. The result: 75 out of 90 on the committee recommended that the church allow for contraceptives for married couples.
Even so, in 1968, Pope Paul VI issued the encyclical (papal document) Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life), in which he rejected the conclusion of the committee and maintained the church's opposition to contraception for married couples.
Immediately, Catholic theologians issued a statement disagreeing with the encyclical, arguing against its methods and conclusions, and maintaining that Catholics may act responsibly by following their well-informed consciences on the issue. Since that time, studies have shown that most Catholic couples use some form of contraception. Most Catholic theologians (professors of theology at colleges and universities) reject the church's teaching on the issue, and have argued that a teaching that the majority of the faithful have rejected is not valid. Those are historical facts.

Fast-forward to now, when the bishops and other Christian groups are appealing to the role of "conscience," a concept on which the bishops themselves and recent popes have put little emphasis, in contrast to the role of "obedience." If they are going to appeal to conscience, then they must also respect the consciences of responsible adults -- Catholic women and men, and non-Catholics who work at Catholic institutions.
They must respect the role of parents to decide how many children they can have, and can afford to take care of. No one is forcing Catholics to take contraceptives. It is a question of access, and hence, of justice.

So here is the question, as I see it, as a Catholic theologian and lifelong Catholic, educated almost entirely at Catholic institutions, and taught to work for human dignity, the common good and social justice: Should the U.S. bishops speak for all Catholics on a matter of national public policy, an issue that most Catholics disagree on within their own church? The bishops have refused to discuss this issue with their fellow Catholics for more than 40 years. And the bishops are all male. What about Catholic theologians, academics, social workers and health care professionals? What about Catholic women? What about the 98%?
See full article at CNN