Tuesday, July 31, 2012

LCWR to determine course at next week's annual meeting

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
July 31, 2012

Just about any way you look at it, it's five days that could shape the course of some six decades of history.

Nearly four months after a harsh Vatican critique, the leaders of the organization that represents 80 percent of U.S. women religious are due to gather Aug. 7-10 in St. Louis for their annual meeting.

The questions before the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which was founded in 1956 but reorganized in 1971 in order to address the changes of the Second Vatican Council, loom large.

Following the Vatican's critique, which came in April and mandated that the group revise and place itself under the authority of three bishops, the first and foremost of those questions is almost certainly whether the group will decide to forego its status as a canonically recognized representative and reform outside the formal structures of the church.

The airing of those questions will come early in the gathering, which includes a number of closed-door "executive sessions" where the leadership of the group is expected to discuss the Vatican's critique, known as a "doctrinal assessment."

The morning before the official evening opening Aug. 7, the group's leadership is to meet with former presidents of the organization to communicate its direction and ask their advice.

Two of the former presidents told NCR in mid-July that their advice for the current leadership may be stark.

Benedictine Sr. Joan Chittister, who headed the organization in 1976, identified what she called a "key question" facing the group: "Will the sisters function in the church as adult moral agents? As fully participating members of the church?"

Mercy Sr. Theresa Kane, who was LCWR president in 1979, said the sisters need to tell church officials that "we are indeed equal, and we come with respect, and we come with knowledge, and we come with a dialogue for what is important in our lives and you need to listen to that."

"We're not looking for approval," Kane continued. "We don't need the approval. It's out of our convictions that we've lived like this for many years."

LCWR's associate director of communications, Immaculate Heart of Mary Sr. Annmarie Sanders, said in an email July 23 that during the assembly "time has been allotted each day for discussion of LCWR's response to the Vatican mandate."

"Those times will include information-sharing, communal contemplation, and an opportunity for the members to hear from one another about next steps that LCWR might take regarding the [Vatican] report," said Sanders, who is also a member of NCR's board of directors. "Since each day's process will build on the previous days, it is not expected that there will be any decisions made about next steps until the final day."


According to the Vatican's mandate, LCWR is to place itself under the authority of Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain, who is to serve as "archbishop delegate" for the group and is to be assisted in that role by Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo, Ohio, and Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill.


Discussions about the possibility that LCWR will leave the formal structures of the church are expected to take place during the executive sessions at the gathering and during a scheduled time for a "contemplative process."

Both Chittister and Kane expressed reluctance about the group re-forming as a non-canonical entity.

Kane said she was inclined to "stay with the process" and continue trying "to be creative without raising that question initially."

Chittister, who is an NCR columnist, said that while she would hope the group's leaving would not happen, she also said it's a possibility that "will have to be faced."

Framing the situation as the Vatican "blocking the development of thought and the place of Gospel in that thought," Chittister said, "The obstruction and the control of thought is so important to the evolution of theology and the church itself that if it has to be done outside the structures for a while, then it will have to be done."


Read full article at National Catholic Reporter

Monday, July 30, 2012

San Francisco: climate tense ahead of new archbishop's installation

Vatican Insider
July 30, 2012

Pure provocation. This is how the series of reactions to the appointment of Mgr. Cordileone as archbishop of the America’s most anti-conformist city can be summed up. Cordileone is currently Bishop of Oakland where he still celebrates mass according to the ancient Rite.

This is a prestigious role for 56 year old Salvatore Cordileone from San Diego. He was appointed Archbishop of San Francisco by Benedict XVI last week, after 3 years as leader of the Diocese of Oakland (where 26 priests have been accused of abusing minors) – a vast territory with a high rate of urban crime. Just across the San Francisco Bay lies his future title of cardinal.

But Cordileone is the bishop - the only one among his Californian colleagues - to have campaigned in favour of the famous Proposal 8 which put a stop to civil unions between same-sex couples. The Proposal was subsequently declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court because it was deemed discriminatory. It seems he even contributed 6 thousand dollars out of his own pocket for the campaign and last autumn he wrote to Congress again, supporting marriage as one of the key principles of freedom.

Full article at the Vatican Insider

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Traditionalist nuns greeted by Bishop of Oakland in Livermore

Something curious took place this weekend. On Friday, July 27th it was announced that Oakland Bishop Salvatore Cordileone has been appointed the next Archbishop of San Francisco. There was a lot of interest in this on the internet. In a number of "traditionalist" websites, the appointment story was accompanied by an article saying one of Bishop Cordileone's last actions as Oakland bishop was to invite a very traditionalist group of discalced Carmelite nuns from Nebraska to the diocese where they would take up residence near Moraga. As the day wore on, these stories began to disappear from the internet and one of the SSPX sites commented that "two priests requested that the story be withdrawn". No reason for trying to take back a story which had already spread on the internet was given. Today, I searched around the web and found the following picture on a Canadian traditionalist site http://kwtraditionalcatholic.blogspot.com in Ontario which evidently has a lot of interest in what goes on in Livermore.

The nuns were greeted by Bishop Cordileone at the Livermore airport July 24th after flying in from Nebraska.

A comment on the FSSP Rorate-Caeli site http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com states:

I sent this story to the Catholic Voice, the Catholic paper for the Diocese of Oakland, as events were happening, on the 24th. The monastery is actually located on Pinehurst Rd in Canyon, CA 

Today, the feast of the Martyrs of Compeigne, the Valparaiso, Nebraska Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is making a new foundation at Canyon, CA in the Diocese of Oakland. Mother Agnes, together with Sisters Perpetua, Mary Rose, Miriam Therese and Lucia will be flying out of Lincoln, Nebraska at around 11AM and arriving at the Livermore airport a few hours later.. They will be in Canyon about a month preparing for the arrival of a second contingent of five nuns, mostly novices, on August 24th. Once this monastery is underway Mother Agnes, the novice mistress of Valparasio, will return to the mother house. Until they are enclosed once again, and elect a superior, they will continue to be under obedience to Mother Teresa, the prioress of Valparaiso. After that, they will be an independent monastery. 

Evidently this project has been in the works for a few years, for the Valparaiso monastery owns property on Pinehurst Rd.in Canyon on which they hope with the help of God to build a monastery. For the present they have a three bedroom home and a barn which has been converted into a lodge. For now the chapel, the refectory, library, etc will be in the lodge and the house will provide space for cells. Presumably the rural setting will permit them to raise a few cows and chickens as they do in Valparaiso. 

(the rest of this comment and others are at the FSSP site)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Big wonderful news for San Francisco

from New Sherwood blog
July 27, 2012

Bishop Cordileone, a staunch friend of the traditional Latin Mass and the architect of California’s Proposition 8, has been appointed Archbishop of San Francisco. You might want to take another sip of coffee and read that sentence twice. I have to say, with the recent appointment of Bishop Vasa to lead the diocese of Santa Rosa, and now this, it seems that at long last Rome is determined to clean house in California. Deo gratias!

Poor Rocco, on the other hand, can hardly contain his dismay:

“After a half-century of occupants accused by conservatives of soft-pedaling church teaching in favor of a more conciliatory approach toward constituencies ranging from gays and lesbians to Nancy Pelosi – a group of prelates among which the recently-retired chief guardian of church doctrine, Cardinal William Levada, was not exempt from sometimes stinging criticism — the move delivers the long-desired ‘Holy Grail’ of the American Catholic Right firmly into the faction’s hands, in the form of a prelate already known widely both for his forcefulness and a stringent doctrinal cred almost unequaled among his confreres on the national bench.

For liberal Catholics, meanwhile, the appointment is likely to be received as something akin to the city’s Great Earthquake of 1906, or even more apocalyptic events.”

San Francisco archbishop retires; Bishop Cordilione to succeed him

Catholic News Service
July 27, 2012

WASHINGTON -- Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of Archbishop George H. Niederauer of San Francisco and named Bishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of Oakland, Calif., to succeed him.

Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States, announced the appointment and resignation Friday in Washington.

Niederauer, 76, had led the San Francisco Archdiocese since 2005. A priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, he also served as bishop of Salt Lake City for 10 years. Cordileone, a 56-year-old native of San Diego, was an auxiliary bishop in that diocese from 2002 until his 2009 appointment as bishop of Oakland.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

No middle ground possible with LCWR, Bishop Blair says

Catholic News Service
July 26, 2012

There can be no "middle ground" on matters of faith and morals, the bishop who conducted the Vatican-ordered doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious said in an interview that aired July 25 on National Public Radio's "Fresh Air" program.

Bishop Leonard P. Blair of Toledo, Ohio, one of two U.S. bishops assisting Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle in providing "review, guidance and approval, where necessary, of the work" of LCWR, was responding to a call for dialogue by Franciscan Sister Pat Farrell, LCWR president, on the same program July 17.

"If by dialogue they mean that the doctrines of the church are negotiable and the bishops represent one position and the LCWR presents another position, and somehow we find a middle ground about basic church teaching on faith and morals, then no," he said. "I don't think that is the kind of dialogue that the Holy See would envision.

"But if it's a dialogue about how to have the LCWR really educate and help the sisters to appreciate and accept church teaching and to implement it in their discussions and try to hear some of the questions or concerns they have about these issues, then that would be the dialogue," he added.

But the bishop said that "up till now there's been a lot of just denial" by LCWR on the concerns raised by the Vatican.


full article at Catholich news service

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Monsignor Lynn gets prison sentence of three to six years

John P. Martin
Philadelphia Inquirer
July 24, 2012

Msgr. William J. Lynn was sentenced Tuesday to three to six years in state prison by a judge who said he turned a blind eye while "monsters in clerical garb" sexually abused children, devastating families and shaking the Catholic Church across Philadelphia and beyond.

Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina said she believed Lynn was once the kind and selfless parish priest that his supporters so passionately described. But as the aide whom Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua tapped to investigate clergy sex abuse, Lynn chose to protect the church over victims, she said.

"You knew full well what was right, Msgr. Lynn, but you chose wrong," she told him.

The sentence, the first for a Catholic leader for enabling clergy sex abuse, fell just short of the maximum seven-year term Philadelphia prosecutors had sought. It was hailed by victims and advocates who had complained that church officials long eluded justice for accommodating or concealing priests' attacks on children.

Lynn's lawyers had urged probation or a county jail term, and were disappointed at a sentence they said was disproportionate to the defendant and his crime, a single count of child endangerment.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which paid for Lynn's defense but has been largely silent about his case, also questioned the sentence.

"We hope that when this punishment is objectively reviewed, it will be adjusted," it said in a statement.


Under state guidelines, Lynn will have to serve at least three years in prison before being eligible for parole.


"There are very, very few people that we let get close to our children - and Msgr. Lynn is one of them," said Matt Coyne, the father of seven children and a parishioner at St. Joseph Church in Downingtown, where Lynn was pastor from 2004 until his arrest last year. "That is a good man . . . welcome in my home anytime."

Nearly as many courtroom seats were filled by relatives of the former Northeast Philadelphia altar boy who became the central victim the case. The man, now in his 20s, was sexually abused by Avery in 1999 at St. Jerome Church.


The judge said she believed that Lynn had drafted a now-infamous list of suspected and confirmed pedophile priests in the archdiocese in 1994 because he really did want to address the problem of priests abusing children.

But somewhere along the way, she said, his goal shifted to protecting the church.

The judge threw at Lynn a quote from Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, the new leader of the 1.5-million member archdiocese: "Sooner or later, evil always undoes itself. Sooner or later its consequences become too painful for sensible people to bear."

The monsignor, she said, learned to ignore the evil and tune out the victims. He deserved such a stiff term, Sarmina told him, because of "your support and facilitation of monsters in clerical garb . . . who destroyed the souls of children."


The sentence marked the end of the trial phase but not of the legal proceedings. Lynn and the archdiocese are defendants in at least nine civil suits filed by alleged abuse victims, including the man assaulted by Avery.


Terry McKiernan, the president of the watchdog group BishopAccountability.org, said the sentence was important because it could embolden other prosecutors to pursue similar cases.

"For the first time we have a model for prosecuting the two crimes of clergy abuse," he said, "the clerical abuse of children and the enabling of that abuse by church officials."

Full article at the Philadelphia Inquirer

Monday, July 23, 2012

Penn State and the abuse of the Catholic church

To the Editor: (of The Hour (Connecticut))

July 23, 2012

The abuse scandal at Penn State (Hour, July 12) begs comparison with the ongoing problem in the Roman Catholic Church. While our sports-obsessed culture has grabbed today's headlines, the church problem is obviously more important. It is after all a worldwide phenomenon and one that has particularly affected the Diocese of Bridgeport (i.e., Fairfield County). In both cases leaders looked the other way and even actively connived in allowing sexual predators to endanger more and more children.

The differences are instructive. A year after the Penn State problem became public, we have seen not only the conviction of a perpetrator but also the removal from office of three powerful leaders who looked the other way: the president of the university, the athletic director, and the famous football coach. The University commissioned no less than a former FBI director to conduct a thorough and impartial outside investigation.

By contrast not a single bishop in the United States has been removed from office or even officially chastised for failing to prevent sexual abuse. When Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law, the most prominent senior cleric, resigned under pressure at the end of 2002, he was rewarded with an honorary post in Rome. It is true that the U.S. bishops have instituted policies to prevent future abuses, but compliance has been imperfect even by their own standards. There has been little visible effort to bring all of the nation's dioceses into accord with the new norms.

Readers may wonder why the church, in response to a vastly larger scandal, has responded less effectively than the university. One reason is clericalism--the culture that thrives when an all-male clergy (bishops, priests, and deacons) puts its own interests ahead of the church as a whole. This culture is self-perpetuating because the leadership of the Catholic Church is so tightly concentrated in its all-male hierarchy.


It is not heretical to suggest that the church government has something to learn from the American model. How far church governance has drifted from the "people of God" may be seen from an incident last May when Fairfield University (a Catholic institution) sponsored a conference intended to elicit desiderata for consideration in the appointment of our next bishop. The assembled Catholic laymen and women produced a modest and thoughtful list of suggestions, which was duly forwarded to the apostolic delegate. But there were no priests or deacons present. They had been invited, of course, but the interim management of the diocese had forbidden their participation. Joining such a group, it was feared, might give the false impression that laypeople had a voice in the governance of the church!

John Fitzpatrick
Read the full letter at the Hour

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Prosecutors seek maximum sentence for "cold", "craven" , "amoral" monsignor

Ralph Cipriano
Philadelphia Priest Abuse Trial Blog
July 22, 2012

In a 29-page, scorched-earth sentencing memo, prosecutors assail Monsignor William J. Lynn as a "cold," "craven" "yes man" who, in his position as secretary for clergy for the Philadelphia archdiocese, functioned as an "amoral" enabler of predator priests.

Although defense lawyers have tried to portray Lynn as a powerless, low-level functionary, the prosecutors in their sentencing memo brand the monsignor as a "central actor" in the archdiocese sex scandals while he served as Cardinal Bevilacqua's secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004. In that job, prosecutors said, Lynn waged a 12-year campaign of "constant deceit," managing to keep both victims and parishioners in the dark, while displaying "a willingness to sacrifice anyone to please his superiors."

"Defendant's apparent lack of remorse for anyone but himself, his refusal to accept responsibility, and his failure to understand the criminality of his actions all demonstrate character in serious need of rehabilitation," prosecutors Mariana Sorensen and Patrick Blessington conclude. "A maximum sentence may be the only way to impress upon defendant that he committed a serious crime, that there are more important rules to follow that instructions from corrupt or misguided bishops, and that protection of children trumps the reputation of abusers and the institution that harbors them."


Read full article at Philadelphia priest abuse trial blog

Friday, July 20, 2012

Prosecutors: Msgr. Lynn deserves maximum prison sentence

John P. Martin
Philadelphia Inquirer
July 20, 2012

Msgr. William J. Lynn is evil, conniving and remorseless and deserves nothing but the maximum term in state prison for allowing Archdiocese of Philadelphia priests to sexually abuse children, prosecutors argued Friday.

"Every workday he woke up, went to his office and there pursued a deliberate, orchestrated plan that shielded and enabled child rapists," Assistant District Attorneys Mariana Sorensen and Patrick Blessington wrote in a sentencing memo.

Lynn, 61, faces up to seven years in prison when he is sentenced Tuesday by Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina.

A former top aide to Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, Lynn last month became the first Catholic church official convicted for enabling clergy sex abuse.

In their 29-page brief, the prosecutors told the judge that only the stiffest term would send a message to Lynn and other culpable church leaders.


Prosecutors  maintained Lynn has a well-documented criminal history - one that unfolded during weeks of often gut-wrenching trial testimony from witnesses who described being fondled, molested or raped by their parish priests.

As the archdiocesan secretary for clergy responsible for investigating the claims, Lynn saw the impact but did nothing, Blessington and Sorensen wrote.

"He observed first-hand, on a regular basis the destruction of lives as victims of priests whom he supervised poured out their stories of abuse, shame, despair, isolation, anger, loss of faith, addictions, failed marriage and lost lives," their motion states.

Lynn's actions, they said, also had a devastating affect on area Catholics, causing many to question their faith and leaders, and costing the church millions at a time when financial woes are forcing it to close parishes and schools.
"Given all that, the prosecutors argued, "his offense could not be graver. It easily merits the maximum sentence."

read full article at Philadelphia Inquirer

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bishops' lashing out at sisters a distraction

Kathy Galleher
National Catholic Reporter
July 17, 2012
Since the Vatican's public release April 18 of the results of the doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, many American Catholics have been confused and angry. These women, who work tirelessly with the poor and marginalized, whom many of us see as embodying Christ's love, are being accused of doing grave harm to the church. In conversation after conversation, I have heard, "Why so much anger directed at women religious?", "What is this about?" and "It just seems ... abusive." As I pondered this last observation, I recognized a familiar dynamic.
For nearly eight years I worked as a psychologist at a treatment center for priests and religious. During that time I worked with a number of men who had committed sexual abuse. An essential part of the therapeutic work was for these men to understand the deep pain they had caused, to accept responsibility for it, and to move forward with a commitment not to let it happen again, which included accepting restrictions and consequences. Often the largest obstacle to healing was the first task: accepting and understanding the amount of pain they had caused.
In treatment, when a client was stuck in this way, we would see this blaming/lashing-out dynamic, and he would start a fight. The greater the unacknowledged pain, the more furious the fight. Often the fury was directed toward a bishop or superior who was removing him from ministry. "You're ruining my life," he would say. "I feel betrayed. You have no idea how much pain you are causing me and you don't even care." Although he was the abuser, in his mind in that moment, he was the victim of the bishop or superior. The real victim had vanished from his awareness.
Fights like these were so provocative that the instinctive reaction of those on the receiving end was to respond with their own aggression. So the fight would escalate, take on more heat, and distract from the work at hand. As therapists, we tried to contain these fights and give them as little energy as possible (like depriving a fire of oxygen). Our job was to say, "This is a distraction. Let's get back to work." Then we would support the client in leaving the fight behind and returning to his unfinished work: looking deeply at his own pain, taking responsibility for the pain he had caused, and taking action to prevent it from occurring again.
I see strong parallels between this and the church's dealings with LCWR. The level of anger and blame in the doctrinal assessment document feels like someone is picking a fight, and the intensity of it hints at the enormous amount of still unworked pain at the heart of the church's sexual abuse crisis. To me, this fight looks like a distraction.
In the past 10 years, the church has taken steps toward responding to the tragedy of sexual abuse in the church at the individual level, including responding to allegations more quickly, involving law enforcement, and developing child protection policies. However, the church has not yet been willing or able to examine its own role as an institution in concealing and enabling decades of abuse. The bishops have not taken collective responsibility for their actions (and inactions) and for the enormous pain they have caused. As much as the abuse itself, it is this failure by the hierarchy to acknowledge and accept their responsibility that has angered and disillusioned so many current and now-former Catholics. Too much pain is still unacknowledged and unworked.
The church hierarchy seems to be stuck and they are blaming and lashing out. They have started a fight with LCWR and the women religious. In the doctrinal assessment, they have accused the women of the church of betraying the core values of the church, of causing scandal and leading the faithful astray, and of not being sufficiently trustworthy to reform themselves. They have ordered the women to be closely supervised. These accusations seem more rightly to belong to the sexual abuse scandal rather than to the actions of LCWR. It was the bishops who, by protecting sexual abusers, betrayed core values of the church and caused scandal to the faithful. It is the institutional church that appears not to be able to reform itself and to be in need of outside supervision.
This fight with LCWR is a distraction from the work the bishops still need to do in order to bring about genuine healing in the church.
In response to the misdirected accusations and the severe punishment directed at LCWR, many Catholics feel outraged and want to fight back. But as we saw above, to do so stokes the fire and continues the distraction. We can all be grateful to the women of LCWR for their powerful model of non-reactivity and reflection in their response to this situation. They have spoken their truth, but have not thrown wood on the fire. Similarly, public statements of support from men religious -- notably the Franciscans -- are courageous and direct but nonviolent. I hope that all of us will follow their lead -- speaking our truth with courage and nonviolence, and, like the sisters, keeping our eyes on the real work we are called to do as a church.
It seems the moment to say clearly to the Vatican and to the bishops, "This fight with LCWR is a distraction. The women are not to blame. The church is not the victim. There is still a great deal of pain to address. Let's get back to work." Let us hope that with our prayers and support they will be able to look more deeply. Let us hope they can return to and complete the work that is still theirs to do, and in that way bring about healing and transformation for themselves and for our entire church.
[Dr. Kathy Galleher is a licensed clinical psychologist. The author thanks Mary Rein for her help shaping this article.]
See full article at  National Catholic Reporter

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Association of US Catholic priests calls for reexamination of liturgical translation

Fr. Anthony Ruff
Pray Tell
July 14, 2012

The newly-founded Association of U.S. Catholic Priests has called upon the U.S. bishops to address with Roman authorities the problematic prescriptions of the 2001 Vatican document Liturgiam authenticam which brought about the new English Roman Missal.

The AUSCP, which has a membership of over 600 priests, met for the first time this past June in Tampa, Florida. The body also passed resolutions supporting the Leadership Council of Women Religious and giving them financial support during this time of Vatican-imposed restructuring, supporting the Catholic Theological Society of America and theologians condemned by the Vatican, and networking with associations of Catholic priests in other countries.

The resolution on the new English missal asserts that it has “caused disharmony, disruption and discord among many… frustrating rather than inspiring the Eucharistic prayer experience of the Christian faithful, thus leading to less piety and to less ‘full, active and conscious participation’,” and that it “has created pastoral problems, in particular because of its cumbersome style, arcane vocabulary, grammatical anomalies, and confusing syntax.”

The resolution on the new missal is carefully worded to justify, based on canon law, the right and duty of the new organization to express its opionions for the good of the church. In a sign of the desire of the AUSCP to work respectfully and constructively with bishops, the resolution on the missal was sent first to Cardinal Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, before being issued publicly.


Be it resolved that the Association of United States Catholic Priests urge our Bishops, who are also our Pastors, to exercise their collegial powers and responsibilities by addressing in a collegial way, with the appropriate Vatican authorities, the problematic prescriptions of Liturgiam authenticam which brought about the New Roman Missal.

Read the full article at Pray Tell

Friday, July 13, 2012

Diocese seeks relief from clergy sex abuse verdict

Jim Collar
Post Crescent
Appleton, WI
July 13, 2012

The Catholic Diocese of Green Bay says its First Amendment rights protect it from liability in a civil lawsuit filed by two childhood victims of clergy sex abuse.

Brothers Todd and Troy Merryfield were awarded $700,000 in May by an Outagamie County Court that found the diocese committed civil fraud. The brothers claimed the diocese knew of the Rev. John Feeney’s illicit sexual history when it installed him as a priest at Freedom’s St. Nicholas Church and misrepresented him as safe while knowing he was a danger to children.

The Merryfields, then 12 and 14, were molested by Feeney in 1978. Feeney was sentenced to prison in 2004 for the assaults.

Sarah Fry Bruch, an attorney for the diocese, said the jury verdict should be overturned, arguing the court is constitutionally barred from reading any meaning into Feeney’s assignment to a pastoral role. The Merryfields didn’t show evidence the diocese represented Feeney as safe.

“Nor could they, as the assignment of a priest is a canonical act which the civil courts may not evaluate or explain,” she wrote. The First Amendment gives broad latitude to religious organizations in the conduct of their internal affairs.


Granting the diocese immunity from Wisconsin law by finding in its favor “would raise grave Establishment Clause issues by actually advancing religion,” he wrote. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from establishing a national religion or giving preference to one over another.

The First Amendment argument was one of several made by the diocese in a 40-page document asking for relief from the court.

Read full article here

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Arlington diocese parishoners question need for fidelity oath

By Michelle Boorstein
July 11, 2012
Washington Post

Kathleen Riley knows her beliefs on the male-only priesthood and contraception put her at odds with leaders of her church. But as a fifth-generation Catholic who went to a Catholic school and grew up to teach in one, Riley feels the faith deeply woven through her. So when her Arlington parish asked for volunteers last summer to teach Sunday school, she felt called by the Holy Spirit to say yes.

A year later, the 52-year-old computer scientist feels the same spirit calling her to say no.

Last month, Riley joined at least four other Sunday school teachers and resigned from her post at St. Ann’s parish after a letter arrived at her home requiring her — and all teachers in the Arlington Catholic Diocese — to submit “of will and intellect” to all of the teachings of church leaders.


The Arlington Diocese, which includes nearly a half-million Catholics across northern and eastern Virginia, is one of a small but growing number that are starting to demand fidelity oaths. The oaths reflect a churchwide push in recent years to revive orthodoxy that has sharply divided Catholics.

........... One in Baker, Ore., reiterates the sinfulness of abortion and says, “I do not recognize the legitimacy of anyone’s claim to a moral right to form their own conscience in this matter.” One in Oakland, Calif., requires leaders of a group doing outreach to gay and lesbian Catholics to say they “affirm and believe” official church teaching on marriage, hell and chastity.

The Arlington “profession of faith” asks teachers to commit to “believe everything” the bishops characterize as divinely revealed, and Arlington’s top doctrine official said it would include things like the bishops’ recent campaign against a White House mandate that most employers offer contraception coverage. Critics consider the mandate a violation of religious freedom.

The Arlington Diocese is considered among the most conservative in the country and was the next to last in the nation to say girls could serve at the altar. Teachers must give the new oath in front of a priest.

Read full article at the Washington Post

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Top church historian sees Catholic schism ahead

Jul. 10, 2012
By Jonathan Luxmoore
Religion News Service

Influential church historian Diarmaid MacCulloch said he believes Christianity faces a bright future, but predicted the Roman Catholic Church will undergo a major schism over its moral and social teaching.

"Christianity, the world's largest religion, is rapidly expanding -- by all indications, its future is very bright," said MacCulloch, 60, professor of church history at Oxford University and an Anglican deacon. His latest book, Silence in Christian History, will be published in the fall by Penguin.

MacCulloch said in an interview that "there are also many conflicts" within Christianity, "and these are particularly serious in the Roman Catholic church, which seems on the verge of a very great split over the Vatican's failure to listen to European Catholics." He predicted that Catholicism faces a division over attempts by popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI to "rewrite the story" of the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council by portraying it as a "minor adjustment" in church governance, rather than as a "radical move to change the way authority is expressed."

"Conflict in religion is inevitable and usually healthy -- a religion without conflict is a religion that will die, and I see no sign of this with Christianity," MacCulloch said. "But the stance of the popes has produced an angry reaction among those who want to see the council continue. No other church in history has ever made all its clergy celibate. It's a peculiarity of the Western Latin church, and it looks increasingly unrealistic."

The Vatican's refusal to allow Roman Catholics to talk about married or female clergy was "not the reaction of a rational body," MacCulloch said.

MacCulloch, a specialist in early modern history and a fellow of the British Academy, co-edits the Cambridge-based Journal of Ecclesiastical History and was knighted in early 2012 for services to scholarship.

Among numerous awards, he was the 2010 recipient of the Cundill Prize in History from Montreal's McGill University for his 2009 book "A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years," which was accompanied by a BBC television series.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Call to Leadership

A Call to Leadership” by Sister Joan Chittister was prepared for delivery at Stanford University’s 2012 Baccalaureate program.

Bertolt Brecht, German dramatist and poet wrote: “There are many elements to a campaign. Leadership is number one. Everything else is number two.” And Walter Lippmann said: “The final test of a leader is someone who leaves behind themselves – in others – the conviction and the will to carry on.” But how do we know what it means to really be a leader and how do we know who should do it?

There are some clues to those answers in folk literature, I think. The first story is about two boats that meet head on in a shipping channel at night. As boats are wont to do in the dark, boat number 1 flashed boat number 2: “We are on a collision course. Turn your boat 10 degrees north.” Boat 2 signaled back: “Yes, we are on a collision course. Turn your boat 10 degrees south.” Boat 1 signaled again: “I am an admiral in her majesty’s navy; I am telling you to turn your boat 10 degrees north.” Boat 2 flashed back immediately: “And I am a seaman 2nd class. And I am telling you to turn your boat 10 degrees south.” By this time, the admiral was furious. He flashed back: “I repeat! I am an admiral in her majesty’s navy and I am commanding you to turn your boat 10 degrees north. I am in a battleship!” And the second boat returned a signal that said: “And I am commanding you to turn your boat 10 degrees south. I am in a lighthouse.” Point: Rank, titles and positions are no substitute for leadership.

You are all graduating from this great university this weekend because someone has seen leadership potential in you at a time of grinding poverty and gross inequality. At a time when we have never needed leadership more, someone saw in you the possibility to be a powerful presence in the public arenas of our own time. The question is, then, what will you inspire in this world now?

The motto under which you have been educated here – the “the wind of freedom blows” – is exactly what a world struggling between the challenges of the present and the ideals of the past requires.

It requires the freedom to question and the freedom to rethink absolutes. It requires the freedom to confront what does not work and to rebel against rigidities that mask as unassailable traditions. It requires you to re-energize the kind of courageous initiative that opened the frontier in one century and reached the moon in the next. It requires the vision that freed slaves and empowered women, that preserved the spiritual but honored the secular, as well.

What the world needs now are those who will commit themselves to free that kind of energy everywhere and lead others to do the same.

First, though, you must realize that the world did not send you here simply to get itself another engineer or business manager or computer science programmer. No, your world sent you here to be its leaders.

But note well: The world you have been given to lead is both glorious and grim. One right step and the whole world can become new again. One more wrong step and the globe itself is in irreversible danger.

Indeed, we need a new direction; we need another point of view. We need a more complete human agenda. And it is yours now to lead.

No, the world does not really need the skills you learned here. Today’s skills will all change in the next five years and change your life with them.

The world does not need answers either. Answers are easy to come by: You Google them. No, what the world really needs from you now is the courage to ask the right questions without apology, without fear, and without end.

It needs those who will lead from the vantage point of new questions, not old answers. From the point of view of enduring values, not denominational politics; from the perspective of global needs, not parochial interests.

Two-thirds of the hungry of the world are women. Two-thirds of the illiterate of the world are women. Two-thirds of the poor of the world are women. That can’t be an accident; that has to be a policy.

Where are the leaders who will change these things?

The ozone layer, the placenta of the earth, has been ruptured. The polar ice cap is melting and raising the water levels of the world. And, at the same time, the lands of the poor are turning to dust and stone while the industrialized world goes on choosing short-term profits over long-term global warming treaties.

Nuclear weaponry threatens the very existence of the planet and they have the effrontery to call it “defense.”

The question is, then, how shall you lead this next generation, so that the errors of this present generation do not simply become even more death dealing in the future than they are now?

If you really want to be a leader who leads your city, your country, your world down a different path, there are three stories you should know, I think. They may say more about the kind of leadership needed for our time than anything any MBA leadership manual can begin to explain to you:

The first is from the western fabulist Hans Christian Andersen, which you may have learned as a child but which is, in fact, about a very adult problem. In the first story, a village is preparing for a visit from its king. He will come regally dressed, his courtiers tell them. Never, they say, has a king been so finely outfitted as ours. So, on the day of the king’s arrival people cheer and cheer as the king strides by. “You, O King, are the finest king of all.” Except for one small child. “No,” the child shouts. “No! He is not splendid. He is not honest,” he says. “In fact, the king has no clothes on at all.” Then the crowd went silent. Then the farce was over. Then everyone snuck away ashamed of what they had allowed to go unchallenged. Only then did the dishonest emperor resign the throne. Point: If you want to really be a leader, you must be a truth-teller.

If you want to save the age, the Irish poet Brendan Kennelly writes, “Betray it. Expose its conceits, its foibles, its phony moral certitudes.” Remember, there will be those among the powerful who try to make you say what you know is clearly not true because if everyone agrees to believe the lie, the lie can go on forever.

The lie that there is nothing we can do about discrimination, nothing we can do about world poverty, nothing we can do about fair trade, nothing we can do to end war, nothing we can do to provide education and health care, housing and food, maternity care and just wages for everyone in the world. Nothing we can do about women raped, beaten, trafficked, silenced yet, still, now, everywhere. If you want to be a leader, you, too, must refuse to tell the old lies. You must learn to say that those emperors have no clothes. You must see what you are looking at and say what you see.

The second story is about the Buddhist monk Tetsugen, who determined to translate the Buddhist scriptures into Japanese. He spent years begging for the money it would take to have them printed. But just as he was about to begin the first printing, a great flood came and left thousands homeless. So Tetsugen took the money he’d raised to publish the scriptures and built houses for the homeless. Then he began again to beg the money he needed to publish the scriptures. This time, years later, just as he finished collecting the funds he needed for the task, a great famine came. This time, Tetsugen took the money for the translation work and fed the starving thousands instead. Then, when the hungry had been fed, he began another decade’s work of collecting the money for the third time. When the scriptures were finally printed in Japanese, they were enshrined for all to see. But they tell you to this day in Japan that when parents take their children to view the books, they tell them that the first two editions of those scriptures – the new houses and healthy people – were even more beautiful than the printed edition of the third. The second lesson of leadership, then, is that no personal passion, no private agenda, no religious ritual must ever be allowed to come between you and the people you serve.

The third lesson of leadership comes from the Sufi master who taught disciples one thing only: “If you want to smell sweet, stay close to the seller of perfumes.” The heroes you make for yourselves, the people you idolize, will be the measure of your own character, your own ideals, your own legacy. If you want to lead the world to compassion, you must surround yourself with the compassionate, rather than the uncaring. If you want to lead the world to wholeness, you must follow the peacemakers, not the warmongers. If you want to lead the world to the freedom you learned here, equality for everyone must mean more to you than domination by anyone.

Justice must mean more to you than money. People must mean more to you than fame. Ideals must mean more to you than power or politics or public approval. If you really want to inspire those you leave behind with the conviction and the will to go on doing good, doing justice, doing right, like the child in the village, like the wise old monk Tetsugen, like the Sufi saint of perfume sellers, choose reality over image, choose people over personal profits and projects, choose your heroes wisely.

Speak up loud and clear to the powers of this world that use their power for themselves alone.

The great leaders of history are always those who refuse to bend to naked kings: Mahatma Gandhi, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Nelson Mandela, Rigoberta Menchu, Aung San Suu Kyi, Dorothy Day, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman. The great leaders of history have always been those who refused to barter their ideal for the sake of their personal interests and who rebelled against the lies of their times.

If you want to be a real leader, if you want to give a new kind of leadership, you cannot live to get the approval of a system, you must live to save the soul of it. “As long as the world shall last, there will be wrongs,” Clarence Darrow warned us. “And if no leaders object, and no leaders rebel, those wrongs will last forever.” If you really want to lead, you must rebel against forces of death that obstruct us from being fully human together.

“The purpose of life,” the essayist Rosten writes, “is not to be happy. The purpose of life is to matter, to have it make a difference that you lived at all.” To save this age, use your education, use your freedom, to make a difference. Inspire in those who follow you the conviction and the will to denounce the lies, to reject the greed, to resist the heretics of inhumanity who peddle inequality, injustice and the torturers’ instruments of oppression and social violence. To be a real leader, by all means make a difference! Rebel, rebel, rebel – for all our sakes, rebel! For if the people will lead, eventually the leaders will follow.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Ireland: concerned laity join forces

Vatican Insider
July 8, 2012

It is no longer just priests pushing for reform in the Catholic Church, but the laity as well; this is apparently what has been happening in Ireland over the past few weeks according to The Irish Times.

Patsy Mc Garry reported that a group of lay people who got together at the end of May is planning to run a series of meetings across the whole country, between August and September, to be followed by a bigger meeting in late autumn.

The group was apparently formed after a meeting on 30 May at All Hallows College in Dublin, which dealt with issues relating to the full implementation of the Second Vatican Council and to the urgent need to introduce some reforms considered necessary for the Church in the Third Millennium. Its heads - 4 men and 4 women – are putting together a work platform comprising individuals and structured groups. The group is collaborating closely with ACP, the association of Catholic priests with which a meeting is due to be held soon (the ACP is in touch with German, Austrian and American priests who are appealing for the same things).

In the meantime, specific work groups will be set up to deal with and analyse the various issues that are to be raised, focusing in particular on the subject of faith and young people. The discussion drafts for this should be ready. Noel Mc Cann, one of the group’s heads stated: “A structured group needs to be created because too many people are experiencing the frustration of being lay people in the Church. We felt the need to do something: one thing we can do is to organise ourselves in such a way that we become more united and assertive. Then we will see where this takes us.”

Friday, July 6, 2012

Judge denies convicted monsignor's bid for house arrest

John P. Martin
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Friday, July 6, 2012

Northeast PHILADELPHIA — Monsignor William J. Lynn lost a bid Thursday to get out of jail before being sentenced for child endangerment but persuaded a judge to move his sentencing hearing up by three weeks.

After barely 10 minutes of discussion, Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina sided with Philadelphia prosecutors who said Lynn, the first Catholic Church supervisor convicted for enabling clergy sex abuse, should stay in prison because he is a flight risk.

The former secretary for clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia faces up to seven years in prison. Sarmina moved up his sentencing to July 24, from Aug. 13.

Lynn’s relatives and supporters packed the courtroom for the bail hearing, the second since Lynn was convicted and jailed on June 22. A few gasped when the judge announced her decision.

Lynn, sitting at the defense table in black priestly garb without a clerical collar, didn’t appear to react. One of his lawyers, Jeffrey Lindy, patted the monsignor’s back.


Trying to counter prosecutors’ argument that Lynn could seek asylum in the Vatican, the defense also proposed having him sign an extradition waiver.

Sarmina noted the waiver as a gesture of good will but said, "From all the case law, it sounds like it would be pretty worthless."

She asked defense attorney Thomas Bergstrom if he would serve Lynn’s sentence if the cleric absconded.

"Absolutely, because that’s the faith I have in the monsignor," Bergstrom said. "I’m not the least bit concerned that I’ll ever have to see the inside of a prison cell — and frankly, you shouldn’t be either."

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington, called such a proposal "absurd."


Read the full story at the Philadelphia Inquirer

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Church scandal hits close to home

John P. Martin
 Philadelphia Inquirer
 July 1, 2012

 The Father Lynn I knew was no monster.

I actually liked him.

I explained as much to my editors at The Inquirer when they assigned me last year to cover the landmark prosecution of Msgr. William J. Lynn over his handling of child-sex abuse complaints within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Lynn had been my assistant pastor at St. Katharine of Siena in Wayne 30 years ago.

He gave me Communion and heard my confessions, and did the same with my parents and siblings. He supervised our parish Catholic Youth Organization when I was a CYO officer and routinely gave me keys to the parish gym so my friends and I could play basketball on summer nights. He was chaplain at Archbishop Carroll High School when I was a senior.

The Lynn I remember was a plump, affable guy who smiled a lot when he talked. I even recall a few of our conversations, including when a friend and I asked why he became a priest. Lynn said he had a calling he tried to ignore — but couldn't.

He was barely 30 then.

I had not seen him in decades, but I alerted my editors in case any thought our past ties might constitute a conflict of interest. None did.

In fact, several colleagues shared their own links or encounters with priests tainted in the scandal.

That's one of the things that struck me about this case: I can't recall a story where so many people had so few degrees of separation.

It is nearly impossible to have been raised Catholic in this region and not know or have crossed paths with someone touched by the abuse — a victim, a priest, an investigator, an advocate.

In the last decade, nearly 100 archdiocesan priests have been publicly accused, suspended, or defrocked. Many had multiple assignments, some in a half-dozen or more parishes or schools.


The 2005 and 2011 grand jury reports portrayed Lynn in the most sinister of terms, not for abusing children himself but for allegedly doing little, or at least not enough, about priests who did. They said he dragged his feet on complaints, never bothered to search for other victims — even when he knew their names — and on a few occasions suggested to accused priests they weren't at fault.

According to his memos, Lynn told them they may have been seduced.

By grade-school altar boys.


Catholics filled the prosecution table, the judge's bench, and a few defense chairs. Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington, who hammered Lynn during cross-examination and delivered the commonwealth's closing argument, was a North Catholic High School grad whose uncle spent years as the driver for Cardinals John Krol and Bevilacqua.

Several journalists at the trial shared their own interactions with now-disgraced priests. Sometimes, we discovered ties we never knew.

I won't forget the day prosecutors called a middle-aged man as their next witness.

The reporter sitting next to me was stunned. "I know him," he said. They had grown up together near Norristown, he explained.

Over the next 20 minutes, the witness described being abused by his parish priest, Francis Trauger, when he was 12. He said Trauger took him to St. Charles Borromeo Seminary one weekend to play basketball and molested him in the showers.

Months later, the priest took him to the Poconos to go skiing. They ended up naked in a motel room for a night that seemed to never end, now seared in his memory. For decades, he told no one.

On the witness stand, the man spoke softly but deliberately, struggling to finish without breaking down. His testimony was haunting.

Next to me, the reporter pulled a tissue from his pocket and dabbed his eyes.

Nearly 20 other victims testified. Most were adults in their 40s, 50s, or 60s.

Others watched from afar. Routinely during the trial, I got messages from readers describing their own ties to the names and allegations they were reading in print.

"We all knew about Father Cannon," one wrote about John Cannon, a priest who sneaked into cabins at a church camp to fondle boys in the 1950s and 1960s and later agreed to a restricted ministry.


"I went to school with Murtha. ... We are all shocked," one said about the Rev. Michael Murtha, who remained an active parish priest until 2007 after writing a sexually graphic fantasy letter to a seventh-grade altar boy 12 years earlier.


Read entire article at the Philadelphia Inquirer