Friday, June 29, 2012

Kansas City diocese has to turn over documents

June 28, 2012

The Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has to provide prosecutors with information about the diocese's investigation into past reports of priests accused of abusing children, a Jackson County judge has ruled.

Jackson County Circuit Judge John M. Torrence, who is overseeing a case against Bishop Robert Finn and the diocese, also said in a ruling Wednesday that the diocese must turn over documents from the independent investigation into the case of the Rev. Shawn Ratigan that the diocese commissioned.

Ratigan has pleaded not guilty to state and federal child pornography charges and remains jailed.

Finn and the diocese are charged with misdemeanor failure to report suspected abuse to the state after learning of suspected child pornography on Ratigan's computer. Finn has acknowledged learning about the photos in December 2010, six months before Ratigan was arrested. The trial is scheduled for September.

Read full article at San Francisco Chronicle

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Austrian rebel priests told to renounce manifesto or lose jobs

Irish Times
June 28, 2012

THE CATHOLIC Church in Austria has laid down the law to its rebel priests by telling them they cannot support a reform manifesto criticised by Pope Benedict and stay in an administrative post.

One priest said he had already stepped down from the post of deacon rather than renounce the Call to Disobedience manifesto, that challenges church teaching on topics such as women’s ordination and offering Communion to non-Catholics.

Another priest had withdrawn his support for the campaign and kept his job, a church spokesman said yesterday, while two or three more had yet to decide.

The manifesto’s demands, which issue from a reform group called Priests’ Initiative, have been echoed by some Catholic groups and clerics in Germany, Ireland, Belgium and the United States.

“You can easily remain a member of the Priests’ Initiative. You must only distance yourself from the Call to Disobedience in an appropriate way,” said church spokesman Nikolaus Haselsteiner.

“In an average company, a department head can’t say he doesn’t care what the CEO says.”

The Vienna archdiocese said yesterday that its head, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, had told priests last month he would not appoint manifesto supporters to the post of dean and those coming up for renewal in the post would also be forced to choose.

Cardinal Schönborn, a close ally of Pope Benedict, has met the rebel priests, including their leader Father Helmut Schüller. However Tuesday’s announcement was the first sign he was reining them in.

Fr Schüller says his group represents 10 per cent of the Austrian clergy. The group has won broad public backing in opinion polls for its pledge to break church rules by giving Communion to Protestants and divorced Catholics who have remarried.

Austrian Catholics have for decades challenged the conservative policies of Pope Benedict and his predecessor, Pope John Paul, creating protest movements and advocating changes – such as ordination of women and the abolition of clerical celibacy – that the Vatican firmly rejects.

Pope Benedict responded in April by restating the church’s ban on women priests and saying he would not put up with revolt from clerics and lay people.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Abuse crisis is a watershed in the Roman Catholic Church's history in America

Michael D. Schaeffer

Philadelphia Inquirer
June 24, 2012

The last decade has been a season of agony for the Catholic Church in the United States, a pilgrimage through purgatory made all the more painful by being self-inflicted.

Thousands of children have accused Catholic priests, seminarians, nuns, and brothers of molesting them. Victims have told stories of suffering intensified by official church neglect. The church has paid out billions of dollars in settlements. Most controversial of all, Catholic bishops have been accused of trying to hush it all up, shuffling offenders from one unsuspecting parish to another.

Now, Msgr. William J. Lynn, former secretary for clergy of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, has become the first high-ranking church official convicted for failing to protect children from the possibility of abuse.

It's a pivotal moment in the worst crisis the Catholic church in the United States has ever faced.

"Everybody working for a bishop is put on notice that they can go to jail if they don't do the right thing, even if they're doing what the bishop was telling them," said the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a Jesuit priest and senior fellow at Georgetown University's Woodstock Theological Center.

"This is sending a very strong message to every priest personnel director, bishop's secretary, and chancellor in the country that it won't be a legitimate excuse to say, 'The bishop told me to do it,' " said Reese, formerly editor of the Jesuit magazine America and author of books on the Vatican and the American hierarchy.

"It's hugely significant and long overdue," said Philip F. Lawler, editor of the online Catholic World News. "If bishops and their assistants in the chanceries had been accountable, they wouldn't have to be held accountable by the courts."

"It's a major, major move forward for those of us trying to help victims," said the Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, a canon lawyer formerly on the staff of the Vatican's diplomatic mission in Washington.

An even higher-ranking church official than Lynn - Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., - has been charged criminally with failure to report abuse. Finn was indicted on the misdemeanor charge in October. His trial is scheduled for September.


The crisis has touched almost every Catholic diocese in the country and awakened an awareness among Catholics abroad that has led to allegations of sex abuse in Australia, New Zealand, and Western Europe, especially Ireland.


The financial strain has pushed some dioceses to the breaking point - the Diocese of Wilmington filed for bankruptcy in 2009.

Some dioceses closed parishes and sold the property in order to raise money, Berry alleged in his latest book, Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church, published last year.

On Thursday, Chaput said the diocese would shut its youth office, fold its monthly newspaper, and lay off 45 employees to close a $17 million deficit.

How did it all happen? The 2011 John Jay report found no single cause for the abuse but said that it paralleled a rise in sex abuse of minors in society at large.

Others have seen the coverup as the fruit of institutional arrogance, a princely paradigm of governing by bishops and a culture of clericalism that divides the church into a dominant clergy and a subservient laity.

"Nobody can stand up and say to a bishop, 'You're wrong,' say to the pope, 'You're wrong,' " Reese said.

That authoritarian attitude is reinforced by the bishops' own view of their place in the church, according to Doyle, the canon lawyer, who describes the bishops as "obsessed with themselves based on their theology of themselves" as successors to Jesus' apostles.

The crisis has cast a pall over Catholic life.

"Embarrassment is about the mildest word I can think of, for me and just about every Catholic in the United States," said writer and journalist Russell B. Shaw, who from 1969 to 1987 was spokesman for the U.S. bishops. "It's been an agonizing experience as the whole abuse scandal has been unraveling."

The revelations have compelled Catholics "to clarify the nature of our religious commitment," Shaw said. "Faith is faith in Christ, not faith in the hierarchy or the clergy. . . . We respect [the bishops and clergy] when they deserve respect. That's a healthy development. . . . I wish [the abuse] didn't happen, but it did happen. The revelations were necessary."


The sexual-abuse crisis in the church may even have affected the way secular institutions such as Pennsylvania State University respond to accusations of sexual abuse by their employees.

"We think that the way [football coach Joe] Paterno and the university president [Graham Spanier] were held accountable would not have happened without what happened in Philadelphia," Doyle said. Paterno and Spanier were fired after sex-abuse charges were brought against Paterno's former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted Friday night on 45 of 48 counts by a Centre County jury.

But even as the church has striven to improve its response to sexual abuse by clergy, some observers see a continuing problem in the church's structure, with the bishop as absolute authority in any diocese, answerable only to the pope.

"I think we have a system of ministry that needs renewal or restructuring," including a reevaluation of mandatory celibacy for diocesan priests, said the Rev. Donald Cozzens, writer in residence at John Carroll University in Cleveland and a former secretary for clergy and seminary rector in the Diocese of Cleveland.

"Policies have been put into place that more directly and honestly respond to allegations of clergy abuse," he said. "On the negative side, what we're doing is addressing symptoms, which are very serious, but we're not addressing the system, the structures of the church, which I think need to be looked at very carefully."

read the entire article at "The Philadelphia Inquirer

Friday, June 22, 2012

Cardinal's aide found guilty in abuse case

PHILADELPHIA — Msgr. William J. Lynn, a former cardinal’s aide, was found guilty Friday of endangering children, becoming the first senior official of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States convicted of covering up sexual abuses by priests under his supervision.
The 12-member jury acquitted Monsignor Lynn, of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, of conspiracy and a second count of endangerment after a trial that prosecutors and victims rights groups called a turning point in the abuse scandals that have shaken the Catholic Church.
Monsignor Lynn, 61, sat impassively as the jury foreman announced the verdicts, but relatives behind him were in tears. Judge M. Teresa Sarmina of the Common Pleas Court revoked his bail, and the monsignor stood up, removed his clerical jacket and was led by sheriff’s deputies to a holding cell area. His conviction, on the 13th day of deliberations, could result in a prison term of three-and-a-half to seven years; sentencing is set for Aug. 13.
The trial sent a sobering message to church officials and others overseeing children around the country. “I think that bishops and chancery officials understand that they will no longer get a pass on these types of crimes,” said Nicholas P. Cafardi, a professor of law at Duquesne University, a canon lawyer and frequent church adviser. “Priests who sexually abuse youngsters and the chancery officials who enabled it can expect criminal prosecution.”
The three-month trial cast a harsh light on the top leadership of the archdiocese, especially Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, whom Monsignor Lynn advised. Archbishop of Philadelphia from 1988 to 2003, he died in January, but his name was invoked frequently during the testimony. Monsignor Lynn’s own lawyer told the jury that “in this trial, you have seen the dark side of the church.”
The revelations of sexual abuse and seeming official indifference have tormented an archdiocese that was long known for imperious leaders and an insular camaraderie among its priests. It has also been costly: the financially ailing archdiocese said recently that legal fees and internal investigations spurred by the abuse cases had cost $11.6 million since early 2011.
Monsignor Lynn’s lawyers are expected to appeal.
In 2002, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted a national “zero-tolerance” policy, pledging to remove any priest facing credible accusations. But serious lapses have occurred, including in Philadelphia, where a grand jury in 2011 asserted that as many as 37 priests with past accusations remained active in ministry.
The bishop of the diocese in Kansas City, Mo., Robert W. Finn, is awaiting trial on misdemeanor charges of violating the state’s mandatory reporting requirement by allegedly waiting six months to tell the police that a priest had taken lewd photographs of girls.
Full story at The New York Times

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Germany: Catholic priests administer communion to divorcees

Allesandro Speciale
Vatican Insider
June 7, 2012

The wait is over. It is now time for action: this is what the more than 150 priests and deacons of the Archdiocese of Freiburg, in Germany (161at the time this article was written) must have thought, as they issued an open declaration on the internet, stating that they regularly administered communion to divorced couples who had remarried.

In their manifesto, the priests – who account for approximately a seventh of the clergy in Freiburg, led by Archbishop Rober Zollitsch who is also President of the German Episcopal Conference – stated they were fully aware they were violating the rules laid down by the Catholic Church: “With our signature, we declare that in our pastoral activity regarding remarried divorcees, we are allowing ourselves to be guided by mercy,” they wrote, quoting the salus animarum suprema lex (the salvation of souls must always be the supreme law) principle.

In going against the dictates of the Catholic Church, “we take account of the conscious decision made by the individuals involved and the real life situation that follows.” “In our communities, remarried divorcees take communion and receive the sacraments of reconciliation and the anointing of the sick, with our approval,” the parish priests declared, adding that those who divorce and remarry also participate in parish councils and play an active role in the catechesis and community activities.

Read entire article at The Vatican Insider (LaStampa)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Theological society backs Vatican criticized nun

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
June 8, 2012

ST. LOUIS -- The board of the largest membership organization of U.S. theologians issued a statement of support Thursday afternoon (June 7) for Mercy Sr. Margaret Farley, a member in their ranks who was the subject of harsh criticism from the Vatican just days ago.

Writing that it considers Farley’s work “reflective, measured, and wise,” the leadership of the some 1,500 member Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA) says in the statement it is “especially concerned” that the Vatican’s criticism presents a limiting understanding of the role of Catholic theology.

In a formal notification released June 4, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith criticized Farley’s 2006 book on sexual ethics, titled Just Love.

Farely’s positions on masturbation, homosexual acts, homosexual unions, the indissolubility of marriage and the problem of divorce and remarriage "contradicts" or "is opposed to" or "does not conform to" church teaching, the Vatican notification said.

The congregation said the book "cannot be used as a valid expression of Catholic teaching, either in counseling and formation, or in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue."

John Thiel, CTSA president, told NCR that the society’s leadership decided to issue the statement Thursday because it wanted to both acknowledge Farley as a “distinguished theologian” and state that it is “concerned that the CDF notification had a rather constrained understanding of the task of theology.”

“[The notification] seemed to understand that the role of authentic Catholic theologians was to simply repeat what the magisterium teaches,” said Thiel, a theologian at Fairfield University.
“And even though that is a part of the role of the theologian, the board also considered it important to say that theologians are always in the business of considering all questions … that are important to consider.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

New Vatican documents leaked; source calls pope's butler a 'scapegoat'

M. Alex-Johnson
June 3, 2012

Pope Benedict XVI's butler, who is under arrest for allegedly leaking confidential Vatican documents, is just a scapegoat, according to the source of new secret documents published Sunday by the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

The butler, Paolo Gabriele, 45, remains in a Vatican jail cell on charges of aggravated theft for possessing confidential correspondence. Publication of the new documents Sunday — which La Repubblica said it had received from an unknown person after Gabriele's arrest on May 25 — would strongly indicate that Gabriele wasn't the only person with access to the secret correspondence of the Roman Catholic Church.

The documents lay bare the political machinations among cardinals posted to the Vatican, suggesting an administration riven by infighting over which Benedict, 85, has — or chooses to exercise — little authority.

In a letter accompanying the three new documents, the shadowy provider calls Gabriele "the usual scapegoat" and says his or her intention is to "drive out the real culprits from the Vatican," whom the letter identifies as Msgr. Georg Gaenswein, Benedict's personal secretary, and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, his secretary of state.

The source warns that the new papers are just "three of the hundreds of documents in our possession" that could be damaging to the Vatican.

The documents published Sunday include two written on Gaenswein's personal letterhead. The text, however, had been whited out — a step the source said he or she had taken to protect the pope. In the accompanying cover letter, the source says the documents prove that Benedict is being served by an "inept staff."

Gaenswein has greatly increased his influence in the Vatican in recent years, according to La Republicca, and is one of the pope's closest confidants. The letters, if authenticated, could suggest that even the most sensitive Vatican documents have been compromised.

The third document is a letter to Bertone from Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, an American who is head of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura — in essence, the Vatican's chief justice.
It is marked "highly confidential" and registers Burke's dismay that Benedict had approved the liturgy of a controversial lay group known as the NeoCatechumenal Way, which its critics contend violates the prescribed protocol for the Catholic Mass.

Priests organizing

Pray Tell
June 3,2012

The phenomenon of Catholic clergymen organizing themselves is spreading from Austria and Ireland to the US and to England and Wales.
In the US, the newly-founded Association of U.S. Catholic Priests is up to over 650 members. Its inaugural assembly on June 11-14 has keynote speakers Richard Gaillardetz on “The Historical Impact of Vatican II on the American Church and Priesthood,” and Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB, on “The New Roman Missal: What is the Problem, and What Can We Do about It?”
In England and Wales, six priests who claim the support of over 30 priests recently wrote a letter to The Tablet expressing deep concern about the direction of the church. They call for better dialogue between the hierarchy and laity, a theology of sexuality “rooted in the actual experiences of the faithful” and a discussion on ordaining married men as priests. They criticize the Roman Curia for bypassing basic teaching of the Second Vatican Council such as collegiality. “The recent imposition of the new translation of the Mass texts is an obvious example of this,” they said. They invite supportive priests to contact them.
The Pfarrer Initiative in Austria has  approximately 475 members clergy members and supporters. It has attracted attention for its “Appeal to Disobedience” which calls for far-reaching reforms, and implements some of them with or without approval. (See also here).
The Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland has over 850 members. It calls for the incorporation of the gifts of the entire community in ministry, male and female; a restructuring of the Church’s governing system based on service rather than power; a greater consultation and transparency in the appointment of Church leaders; and a reevaluation of Catholic sexual teaching based on the experience and wisdom of God’s people.
It is too early to say what form the new initiatives in the US and England and Wales will take, or whether their reformist statements and actions will mirror those in Austria or Ireland.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A scandal to the faithful

From the editor's desk
The Tablet (UK)
June 2, 2012

Those who like their rosy view of the Vatican unsullied by sordid reality need to heed Ronald Knox’s famous advice – “a bad sailor keeps clear of the engine room”. Murmurings and mutterings over the last few years that the Catholic Church’s engine room was misfiring have suddenly been turned into hard fact, with the leaking of ­documents that are gravely embarrassing to the papacy of Benedict XVI, the arrest of his butler on suspicion of being the source of those leaks, the forced resignation of the head of the Vatican bank, serious allegations of corruption, and an air of faction-fighting in an apparent attempt to force out the Vatican’s second most powerful figure, the Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

Cardinal Bertone was appointed by the Pope shortly after the start of the pontificate. As Archbishop Bertone, he had previously worked for Cardinal Ratzinger at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and it was apparent that the incoming Pope wanted his own man at his right hand.

This seemed to indicate a lack of confidence in the more obvious options, either to continue with Cardinal Angelo Sodano or appoint someone of the same background. The leaked docu­ments do indeed suggest that Cardinal Bertone has failed to impress, but to them must be applied the classic test – cui bono? In whose interests is it to suggest this? Italian journalists have been assembling suspects, insinuating that the accused butler was a mere pawn in the hands of much more important people. Similarly with the dismissal of Ettore Gotti-Tedeschi as head of the Vatican bank, a personal appointment of Cardinal Bertone. The banker was accused of misconduct, but again, cui bono?

It is right to recognise alternative possibilities. It may be that the growing dysfunctionality of the Vatican as an effective civil service was simply because the man in charge, the Secretary of State, was not up to the job. But it is also possible that the dysfunctionality relates to efforts to obstruct Cardinal Bertone’s administration, to prevent it running smoothly.

Either case gives some insight into persistent reports that many true and devoted servants of the Church in the Curia were becoming increasingly frustrated by what has been described as institutional blocked arteries. A conspiracy to undermine the Secretary of State looks dangerously close to being a conspiracy to undermine the papacy itself. On the other hand, if there really is corruption, it has happened on his watch and he must take responsibility.

Either way, it is a scandal to the faithful of the utmost seriousness. The Pope himself is clearly dismayed, referring on Wednesday to “sadness to my heart” and also to “human weakness, difficulties and trials”, which he was confident the Holy Spirit would help him overcome. He needs to know who or what is behind it. To find out, he may need help from beyond the Vatican’s walls, for instance from senior churchmen untainted by past contact with these unfortunate matters, men with no axes to grind.

Meanwhile the crisis risks undermining the Vatican’s credibility. How many of the decisions that issue forth from the Holy See are genuinely acts authorised by the Pope in possession of all relevant facts, and how many are the result of factional wrangling, rivalry, lobbying, partial briefing, misinformation – or worse?