Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The miracle of Madtown

Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” Mark 4:9
Evidently, some of our culture warrior bishops haven't heard what Pope Francis is saying so clearly: the church "cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods" and that "it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time" .

Some, like Bishop Morlino of Madison, for whom RC seems to mean Republican Conservative as much as Roman Catholic, are more eager than ever to pursue the rightwing social and political agenda as shown in a recent interview published in the Real Clear Religion blog.

Nicholas G Haan III
Real Clear Religion
December 30, 2013


Bishop Morlino asserts that the Obama administration has "made itself the enemy of the Natural Law," even though he admits that this kind of open criticism is better suited for the laity. When Bishops throw their mitres into the political ring, "it has to be clear then that they are offering their prudential judgment" and not a binding teaching. "But I know that calling this administration to account for more than offenses against religious liberty is necessary," Morlino says, "because the only hope we have for common ground is the Natural Law."

Morlino looks no further than his own flock for further hope. Congressman Paul Ryan "is the one of the best at carrying out lay mission as a Catholic politician," Ryan's Bishop says, and would be "very supportive" if the former Republican Vice Presidential nominee decided to run for President in 2016.

Just as with Salvatore Cordileone in San Francisco or Thomas Paprocki in Springfield, Morlino believes that he was called to shepherd Madison because of its "exaggerated secularism." His shepherding has so far not been without use of his staff.


Parishioners in small-town Platteville bristled when priests banned female altar servers and steamed when they were no longer welcome as Eucharistic ministers. Some took to writing letters or leafleting cars in the church parking lot; others left in protest. By Morlino's lights, they are what St. Benedict called "murmurers." Platteville parishioners weren't expecting that, nor did they expect their bishop to threaten them with an interdict, a Canonical punishment.

But after those who "feed on making trouble in a parish" realize that "they cannot destroy a parish community," Morlino shrugs, "they usually will go elsewhere." Many initially did. Parishes with Society priests saw dips in membership, but attendance is coming back, the diocese reports. "The murmuring has subsided," Morlino says cautiously.


The full article can be read here

Australian inquiry scrutinizes church

Stephen Crittenden
National Catholic Reporter
Dec. 31, 2013

Australian survivors of clerical sexual abuse have been complaining for years about their dissatisfaction with Towards Healing, the Catholic church's national protocol for responding to abuse.

The inner workings of Towards Healing were laid bare in November and December during two weeks of public hearings held here before the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, chaired by New South Wales Supreme Court Judge Peter McClellan.

The royal commission was established in November 2012 to inquire into how private, public and nongovernment institutions, including churches, have responded to child sexual abuse, and to make recommendations on improvements where systems have failed. With more than 5,000 people expected to come forward to tell their stories, it is likely to take years to complete its work. One thousand private hearings have already been conducted.

One of the most shocking revelations in early December concerned the handling of allegations of abuse by Marist Br. Raymond Foster, a teacher who committed suicide in 1999, just hours before he was due to face charges of abusing a 13-year-old boy in a north Queensland school in the early 1970s.

He left a suicide note: "I bear no ill will against the person who had me charged as he had every right to do so and I ask his forgiveness if he would be so kind." Foster was 68 at the time of his death.

But the Marist Brothers, one of the largest male teaching orders operating in Australia, concealed the note and publicly claimed Foster died of natural causes.

His victim, identified by the pseudonym DG, said he had felt guilty over Foster's death. "They made me feel I was harassing a sick old man rather than seeking justice for the actions of a devious, slothful and drunken child molester."

DG said he had participated in the Towards Healing process in 2002 and met with Marist Br. Michael Hill, the order's provincial at the time, but hadn't been told about the suicide note until recently and then from the royal commission.

In his evidence to the commission, Hill apologized for mishandling DG's case.

Another former Marist provincial, Br. Alexis Turton, who was the director of professional standards for the Sydney province between 2002 and 2012, gave evidence that he had received 128 abuse complaints during that period. The order has 234 members.

"We had a significant problem. We have a significant problem," he told the commissioner.

At the time Towards Healing was introduced in 1997, it was the first national abuse protocol developed by the Catholic church anywhere in the world. Towards Healing was intended to provide an opportunity for abuse victims to tell their story to somebody in authority in the church, receive an apology, and be offered pastoral care and reparation.

So far, 1,700 people have been through the Towards Healing process. Three-quarters of the cases relate to incidents that occurred between 1950 and 1980; 43 percent involve abuse by religious brothers; 21 percent by diocesan priests; and 14 percent by religious priests.

The Christian Brothers, followed by the Marist Brothers and the De La Salle Brothers, had the most complaints against them.

Nationally, the Australian church has paid AU$43 million (US$38.5 million) in compensation under the scheme.

'Plainly inconsistent'

Towards Healing has also been through a number of revisions over the years. The senior barrister representing the church, Peter Gray, told the commission the process was not perfect. "It is quite plainly inconsistent in its implementation and variable in the outcomes it delivers. That is in part a reflection of the application of the process across the country by so many different church bodies."

The commission also heard the story of Jennifer Ingham, 51, who was abused by Fr. Rex Brown of the Lismore diocese between 1978 and 1982. He died in 2005. In 2013, she received AU$265,000 from the diocese plus AU$12,000 toward her legal costs.

In contrast, Joan Isaacs, 60, received only AU$30,000 from the archdiocese of Brisbane, a 10th of the compensation she was seeking after being abused in the 1960s by Fr. Frank Derriman. Because she chose to be represented by a lawyer, Isaacs endured a grueling two-year negotiation.

"Just after I was offered the $30,000 [in 2001], I telephoned Archbishop [John] Bathersby and asked him, 'Do you know that after two years of stonewalling I have accrued nearly that amount in legal fees? I will have very little left.' Archbishop Bathersby then said, 'That's your problem.' I was utterly defeated and decided to accept the offer to get out of this terrible situation," Isaacs told the inquiry.

She also gave evidence that she signed a strict confidentiality clause under duress.

"I feel that the deed has silenced me in this respect, and it continues to haunt me to this day," she said. "The silencing holds the same power and control over me that was used by Frank Derriman when he abused me as a child," she said.

In 2011, Bathersby initiated the process to laicize Derriman, who had left active ministry in the early 1970s, according to commission documents.

A former chancellor of the archdiocese, Fr. James Spence, gave evidence that he was concerned at the time that the church's pastoral response to Isaacs was insufficient.

"Did you ever say to the archbishop, 'This isn't right?' " the commission asked.

"I certainly inferred it," Spence answered. "One doesn't generally speak so directly to the archbishop. Perhaps one should."

The director of professional standards for the Catholic church in Queensland, Mary Bernadette Rogers, said in her evidence that Isaacs' treatment under Towards Healing had amounted to a form of re-abuse.

Rogers was asked whether she had ever sat down with directors of the church's professional standards offices in other states to discuss how to make the system more consistent across Australia.

"No, your honor," she answered.


"No, your honor."

"Do you think that someone who complains that someone in another diocese received a much larger sum than they did for similar levels of abuse is entitled to be very upset with the church?" the commission asked.


"Have you discussed that with your colleagues?"


In a December interview with NCR, Wayne Chamley of the Australian victim support group Broken Rites said the recent evidence demonstrated that Towards Healing was a process created to satisfy the church's insurers and to reduce compensation payouts.

He said it was also increasingly clear that Towards Healing was not a single, unified scheme.

"In practice there are as many versions of Towards Healing as there are dioceses and religious orders. It's like a lottery. Victims who have suffered similar abuse and similar trauma can receive wildly varying compensation payouts, but there is no right of appeal. This state of anarchy must cease," Chamley said.

Insurer makes the calls

Broken Rites offers free advocacy services to abuse victims, and Chamley told NCR that in his experience, lawyers for the church would rarely say whether they were taking instruction from the church or its insurers. When the church authorities became aware that a complainant had called Broken Rites to represent them, the mediation process could face considerable delays.

"Complainants who entered Towards Healing were like lambs to the slaughter, but if they chose to bring a lawyer the game changed instantly. The insurance company pulled all the strings," Chamley said.

That certainly appears to have been the situation in Isaacs' case. The senior counsel assisting the royal commission, Gail Furness, said the evidence revealed that much of the process Isaacs participated in had been "determined in advance" by the church's insurer, Catholic Church Insurances Limited.

In an exhibit, the commission was read a letter from the insurer giving directions about what the church rep-resentative should say during a mediation with Isaacs, including the form of words to be used in his oral apology. He was instructed to avoid any concession of responsibility on the part of the Brisbane archdiocese and not to discuss compensation.

The insurer also determined the number of counseling sessions made available to Isaacs and was consulted about the wording of the written apology signed by the bishop.

It was clear from Judge McClellan's questions that he is interested in the church's asset structures, including what funds bishops are able to draw on to compensate victims apart from their public liability insurance policies, and what financial reports he might be able to access, if any.

Spence told him that AU$154 million had been invested in the Brisbane archdiocesan development fund, which was used "like a bank."

Later, current Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge revealed that, over the years, the archdiocese had paid a total of AU$2.5 million in compensation victims, AU$1.7 million of which came from the church's insurer. That left AU$760,000 that had been drawn from the archdiocesan development fund. Coleridge said the fund had earned a surplus of AU$22 million last year.

"That money has to do many things," he told the commissioner. "The archdiocese of Brisbane is not among the fat cats of this world. We are not poor, but we are certainly not a wealthy diocese."

Chamley told NCR that these figures revealed that the Australian church had been able to meet the financial burden of the abuse crisis "with barely a sneeze."

"Towards Healing has saved the church millions of dollars. If they've paid out $43 million nationally over 17 years, they're not even eating into their capital," Chamley said.

He anticipates that the royal commission may end up recommending the establishment of some kind of independent compensation scheme, to be funded by the churches and administered independently of them.

Over two weeks of testimony, one church official after another expressed support for handing over the financial compensation aspect of Towards Healing to an external body. One of these officials was Coleridge, who told the commissioner, "I think that the sooner we get reparation, or compensation, out of the Towards Healing process, the better for everyone."

In other evidence, Coleridge described the sexual abuse scandal as "a tsunami that blew up from nowhere." He said Australian bishops and heads of religious orders had been caught "like rabbits in the headlights" by the volume of cases in the 1990s.

He said Isaacs' case had been the subject of "spectacular bungling" under his predecessor Bathersby.

Vicarious liability

In his questions, McClelland has been relentlessly chipping away at the argument that clerical abuse is the responsibility only of individual abusers, not a corporate responsibility of the whole church.

In Australia, church property trusts are protected by legislation and the courts don't recognize the vicarious liability of church officials. Last month, a Victorian state parliamentary report on sexual abuse found this situation to be "clearly unacceptable."

In a sign of possible change, McClelland's argument is that the church should share the responsibility and liability because it asks the public to come forward and place their trust in it, thereby providing "by its very structure" the opportunity for those individuals who breach that trust.

Speaking of the "poverty" of earlier seminary formation as a powerful cultural factor that had combined with personal culpability to create "a perfect storm," Coleridge seemed to support the commissioner's argument: "My own view is that insofar as there are these cultural factors in play -- and there are -- then it really does make sense to talk about some kind of communal or vicarious responsibility or even liability."

That exchange will likely be a cause of concern for other Australian church groups, including the Anglicans and the Salvation Army.

McClellan asked Hill what preparation for a celibate life he had received as a young Marist Brother.

"If you wanted to sum it up in one word," Hill replied, "the word would have been 'Don't.' "

"Don't do what?"

"Anything sexual."

"At all?"

"That's correct."

"Is that a tolerable position for a young man to have to live in?"

"It's intolerable."

The commissioner asked: "Do you see the vow of chastity, imposed upon an 18-year-old, as was imposed upon your generation, as a sensible or appropriate thing to do?"

"Certainly, in 2013, no," the former provincial replied. In some cases, the vow of celibacy was a "probable cause" of abuse, he said.

Inquiries into Towards Healing will continue throughout the life of the royal commission. The first public hearings scheduled for 2014 will focus on homes run by the Salvation Army.

[Stephen Crittenden is a freelance journalist based in Sydney.]

On the Web
Read more about recent testimony before the Royal Commission at http://ncronline.org/node/66641/ [1] and http://ncronline.org/node/66211/ [2].

Monday, December 30, 2013

Judge sets bail for monsignor

National Catholic Reporter
December 30, 2013

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, bail was set today at $250,000 for Monsignor William J. Lynn, four days after an appeals court ruled he was wrongly convicted of endangering children.

The judge ruled that Lynn must surrender his passport and be subject to electronic monitoring and weekly reporting while on bail. He must post $25,000 to be released.

At a news conference today, District Attorney Seth Williams said Lynn's conviction should stand because he was directly responsible for children's welfare, and Williams vowed to fight the decision to the end.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Lynn ruling elates supporters, deflates victim advocates

Aubrey Whelan
Philadelphia Inquirer
December 27, 2013

Advocates for victims of clergy sex abuse said Thursday that the dismissal of Msgr. William Lynn's conviction on child-endangerment charges was nothing short of a travesty of justice.

"What a disgrace," Marita Green, president of the Philadelphia chapter of the Voice of the Faithful, a group of activist Catholics, said in a statement. "I don't care whose 'orders' Lynn followed, whether [Cardinals] Bevilaqua's, Krol's, or even O'Hara's. It is appalling that the laws in the state of Pennsylvania have been so ineffective that none of these enablers, facilitators, and cover-upers have gone to jail."

But supporters of the monsignor said they were elated at the news.

"I think that this case will give other prosecutors around the country pause to reflect on who is really accountable for the damage that may have been done to victims of sexual abuse," said Joe Maher, founder of Opus Bono Sacerdotii, a Detroit organization that provides assistance to accused priests.

Lynn, 62, was the first Catholic Church administrator in the country to be charged with covering up child sex abuse.

Nearly 18 months after he went to prison, his lawyers persuaded a Superior Court panel that prosecutors and the Philadelphia trial judge misapplied the state's child-endangerment laws. They contended that the laws in place when he was secretary for clergy in the 1990s and early 2000s applied only to those who directly supervised children, and the higher court agreed.

Marci Hamilton, a lawyer who has represented abuse victims suing Lynn and the Philadelphia archdiocese, called the decision a "very technical reading of the law."

The Rev. Christopher Walsh, who two years ago was among the founders of a fledgling Association of Philadelphia Priests, said the decision was far from a victory in an "ugly chapter" in the life of the archdiocese.

The decision "wasn't about whether he did something right or wrong. It was whether he did something that he could have been prosecuted for," Walsh, pastor of St. Raymond of Penafort in Mount Airy, said, noting that he was not speaking for other priests. "There's not a sense we're getting past this."

Some advocates called for stronger child-endangerment laws.

"The issue - and this is an issue that's much broader than this case - is whether the laws are adequate to deal with what we're seeing in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and elsewhere," said Terry McKiernan, who runs Bishop Accountability, a website documenting abuse by priests.

Hamilton said she worried prosecutors would "struggle" to bring other church administrators to trial in the wake of the decision.

Maher said the ruling was just. "You're asking someone else to be accountable for something someone else did," he said.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Pennsylvania court reverses Roman Catholic priest's conviction

Michael Muskal
Los Angeles Times
December 25, 2013

A Pennsylvania appeals court on Thursday overturned the conviction of the first U.S. church official ever charged or convicted in connection with how he handled complaints that priests had sexually abused children.

Msgr. William Lynn, who has never been accused of personally molesting any child, was convicted in 2012 of endangering the welfare of a child for how he handled the case of a priest who had been accused of sexually abusing children. Lynn, who has already served about 18 months in prison, could be released as soon as Friday, a Superior Court of Pennsylvania appeals panel ruled. In overturning the conviction, the three-judge panel unanimously rejected prosecution arguments that Lynn, 62, was legally responsible for the abused child’s welfare.

Philadelphia Dist. Atty. Seth Williams said he probably will fight any attempt to release the church official. “I am disappointed and strongly disagree with the court's decision,” Williams said in a statement. “While we are deciding what our next course of action will be, we most likely will be appealing this decision.”

Lynn's trial became famous around the nation as many Roman Catholic dioceses were dealing with allegations of sexual abuse by priests. The charges against Lynn stem from the case of former priest Edward Avery, who is serving 2 1/2 to 5 years in prison for sexually assaulting an altar boy.

During his trial, Lynn admitted that he had handled a complaint in the 1990s that Avery had sexually abused an altar boy. Instead of removing Avery from the ministry, Lynn recommended that he be sent to rehabilitation. Several years later, Lynn reassigned Avery to work at a parish, where he again sexually assaulted an altar boy.

At the sentencing, Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Teresa Sarmina told Lynn that he used his role as a church official to shield priests who had abused children.

“You knew full well what was right, Msgr. Lynn, but you chose wrong,” the judge said before sentencing him to three to six years in prison. “I did not intend any harm to come to” the boy, Lynn said in court. “My best was not good enough to stop that harm.”

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Nienstedt's apologia tour

December 24, 2013

Two days before the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis announced that it had received an allegation of sexual misconduct against Archbishop John Nienstedt, he visited a parish to apologize for the way he responded to accusations of sexual abuse by priests.

When I arrived here seven years ago, one of the first things I was told was that this whole issue of clerical sex abuse had been taken care of and I didn’t have to worry about it. Unfortunately I believed that. And so my biggest apology today...is to say I overlooked this. I should have investigated it a lot more than I did. [When the story broke] at the end of September, I was as surprised as anyone else.

Really? Because in 2009 Nienstedt's former top canon lawer, Jennifer Haselberger, warned him not to promote a priest with a history of sexual misconduct. Nienstedt made him a pastor (the priest was already administrator of the parish, thanks to the previous archbishop's bad judgment). The priest went on to abuse two children in the parish. Haselberger provided Nienstedt with a golden opportunity to "investigate it more." Why wasn't he more alarmed? Where was his sense of urgency? Calmed by the assurance that in the Twin Cities "this whole issue of clerical sex abuse had been taken care of"?

And just last year Haselberger informed Nienstedt about another time bomb--this one was sitting in the chancery basement: a report indicating that "borderline illegal" pornographic images had been found on a priest's computer. Nienstedt did not report it to the police (in Minnesota, priests are mandated reporters). Haselberger did, just before she resigned.

Nienstedt was so troubled by the case that he considered contacting Rome for advice. In a detailed unsent letter to the Vatican, he acknowledged that this priest had possessed "borderline illegal" photographs of young people. He explained that he and the archdiocese could be subject to criminal prosecution for possessing such images (some were kept in the priest's long-buried personnel file). Nienstedt even expressed his "hesitation to assign [the priest] to any form of parochial ministry, given my doubts regarding his fitness for ministry and the potential harm and scandal that could ensue." That letter is dated May 29, 2012. But the archbishop wants Twin Cities Catholics to believe he was surprised when all this made headlines last September? Does he think they don't read the news?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Hospital visit shows for Francis, "It's the attitudes, stupid!"

John L. Allen, Jr
National Catholic Reporter
December 22, 2013

Every so often a day rolls around that seems to perfectly sum up the arc of a story, and Saturday, Dec. 21, felt like one of those days vis-à-vis the priority of attitudes over structures in Pope Francis’ ongoing reform campaign.

Indeed, if the Vatican under Francis were the 1992 Clinton campaign, there might well be a sign in room 201 of the Casa Santa Marta reading: “It’s the attitudes, stupid!”

To set the scene, Francis had two big appointments on his calendar for Saturday. One was the pope’s annual year-end address to the Roman Curia, and the other a visit to Rome’s Bambino Gesù hospital that specializes in the care of sick children.

Going in, most observers assumed the speech would bring the day’s drama, since it loomed as a sort of “State of the Union” summation of Francis’ vision for overhauling a sometimes dysfunctional bureaucracy in the Vatican. The hospital swing, on the other hand, profiled largely as a photo-op.

In the end, however, the pope’s outreach to sick and suffering children actually felt like the main event – an outcome that would seem to reveal something about how Francis understands genuine reform.

Back in September, Francis laid out a vision of reform in his celebrated interview with Jesuit publications.

“Structural and organizational reforms are secondary—that is, they come afterward,” the pope said. “The first reform must be the attitude. Ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost. The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials.”

Saturday drove home how much he meant what he said about focusing on attitudes first.

Given that a clean-up operation in the Roman Curia was a large part of the mandate Francis received from the cardinals who elected him, and given today’s fevered speculation in Rome about what further changes might be coming, many observers were anxious to see if Francis would drop some hints in his speech Saturday morning – which departments might be on the chopping block, for instance, or whose jobs might be at risk. In the end, there was nothing like that.

To be sure, the speech produced a few vintage Francis sound-bites, such as his warning that the Vatican must not be a “ponderous bureaucratic customs house,” bent on constantly “inspecting and questioning,” as well as his plea to Vatican personnel to become “conscientious objectors” to a culture of gossip.

That, however, was attitudes language, and virtually everything had been said by the pope in various ways before.

The speech was also notable for its brevity.

When Benedict XVI delivered his first curia speech in December 2005, it ran to a robust 5,700 words, and offered one of the most memorable rhetorical tropes of his papacy. In it, Benedict contrasted a “hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture” with regard to the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), styling the council as a repudiation of the church’s past, with a “hermeneutic of reform” that accents continuity with earlier layers of tradition. In a sense, that speech was the intellectual blueprint for his entire papacy.

Francis’ maiden curia speech, however, barely reached 1,000 words and took all of 15 minutes to deliver.

The visit a few hours later to Bambino Gesù offered a study in contrast. Popes have visited hospitals before, of course, including previous stops at Bambino Gesù by John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. However, they rarely stick around this long. Francis stayed almost three hours, personally greeting scores of children and their families.

Bottom line: Anyone following the pope yesterday couldn’t help but draw the conclusion that the hospital visit was more important to him than the speech.

The stop produced another of the iconic images of this papacy, this time a shot of Francis kissing a child bald from illness and wearing a surgical mask to ward off infection. Italian TV carried interviews afterwards with delighted kids and moved parents, and one news channel even produced an evening special on how to cope with the suffering of innocents motivated by the pope’s visit.

While Benedict XVI delivered a thoughtful 800-word address during his September 2005 visit to Bambino Gesù, defining the hospital as “an outpost of the evangelizing action of the Christian community in our city,” Francis offered only one paragraph of formal remarks Saturday afternoon.

That paragraph, however, delivered to children suffering from tumors and their parents, produced the day’s headline: “Jesus is always close to you,” the pope said, a phrase subsequently splashed across papers and websites.

“Thank you for your dreams and your prayers,” the pope said, referring to a basket with notes from the children presented to him.

“Let’s offer them together to Jesus,” Francis said. “He knows them best of all, he knows what’s in the depths of our heart. Jesus has a special connection with you children, he’s always close to you.”

Projecting that attitude of closeness, both human and spiritual, to suffering people clearly seemed to be Francis’ priority on Saturday. Presumably, the pope would say that’s not a distraction from the heavy lifting of curial reform … it’s the basis for it.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Amid clergy abuse revelations, Catholics weigh giving

Tom Scheck
Minnesota Public Radio
December 21, 2013

Joe Schmidt's church can count on him this year for a Christmas donation. His generosity, however, won't reach the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

He plans to send only $1 to Archbishop John Nienstedt's annual Catholic Services Appeal, which helps run the archdiocese. The dollar will come with a message of frustration over allegations that archdiocese leaders for decades covered up sexual abuse by priests.

"I give them a nominal amount just to say I considered it, but I'm going in a different direction," said Schmidt, a parishioner at Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Minneapolis. The dollar "sends the message that I'm no longer going to support the administration."

Church leaders across the metro are bracing for similar reactions from Catholics across the Twin Cities.

Allegations against church leaders in recent months have triggered anger among many parishioners. Some Catholics say they're looking at ways to punish the archdiocese for how it's handled the clergy sex abuse scandal.

Christmas is a key fundraising season and this week could affect how the archdiocese moves forward with other projects, including whether to move forward with a $160 million capital campaign, a decision church leaders are set to make in January.

The revelations of abuse, which have shocked and angered some parishioners, could have financial consequences beyond the archdiocese's own coffers — for those of parishes and other Catholic institutions — particularly at the high-giving holiday time. News this week that Nienstedt would step away from public ministry while police investigate allegations he touched a boy several years ago threatened to make matters worse. Nienstedt denies the allegations.

Sue O'Brien of Arden Hills said she's still giving to St. Joan of Arc but stopped giving to the archdiocese.

"I cannot support what is happening at the archdiocese right now and I cannot trust that the money that I give to the archdiocese is going to go anyplace other than to take care of their legal issues," she said. "It doesn't feel good to me or to my husband."

Both O'Brien and Schmidt say they won't give again to the archdiocese until Archbishop Nienstedt is completely removed as leader of the Twin Cities archdiocese.

It's hard to say what impact such sentiments will have on parish budgets and the bottom line of the archdiocese. The Catholic Church isn't required by law to report its financial activity. The archdiocese only releases limited information about its finances in summarized annual statements.

But the timing of the scandal, the investigation into Nienstedt and the recent release of a list of 30 priests who the church says have been "credibly accused" of abusing children couldn't come at a worse time.

"A very large percentage of our income occurs at Christmas and Easter and more so at Christmas because of the tax situations that people are dealing with, so it's significant," said the Rev. Michael Byron, pastor of St. Pascal Baylon in St. Paul.

Byron said his parish is facing debt that will take 25 years to pay off. The church owes more than $100,000 to the archdiocese for past assessments and is also paying off a mortgage for a church that was rebuilt ten years ago. He said he's encouraging his parish to continue giving.

"I think people are aware here that we have a great need for their support," Byron said. The church also gets "a good deal of help from the archdiocese — financially and otherwise — in terms of the resources that keep this parish going," he added. "We would be very myopic if we were to look at it only in terms of giving to this parish or not."

Byron said his and other parishes benefit from the annual Catholic Services Appeal run by the archdiocese. Part of the $9.3 million raised annually subsidizes his Catholic school and the children who go there. The archdiocese also uses the annual appeal to contribute to a pension plan for priests, seminary training and social service organizations in the Twin Cities.

Archdiocese officials are emphasizing that spending in their appeals to donors.

"I think our people are weathering this very well," said Greg Pulles, director of development at the archdiocese. "These are difficult times but I think folks are rallying around their parish priest and their parish."

Appeal funds are dedicated to specific ministerial work, but they're part of a larger budget controlled by the archbishop, Pulles said.

That budget includes the costs the archdiocese has faced related to clergy abuse.

Pulles understands that some parishioners are upset, but said the church will come back stronger.

"We feel very sorry that this has happened but this is not the time to forget the mission," he said. "This is not the time to forget that the church is more than mortal men. This is not the time to abandon your church."

The archdiocese is also a strong supporter of the Dorothy Day Center in downtown St. Paul, a shelter run by Catholic Charities where roughly 250 homeless people sleep nightly.

Catholic Charities CEO Tim Marx said he's received calls from donors wanting assurances that their donations will not go to the archdiocese.

"We are a separate independent organization from the archdiocese," Marx said. "Resources that come to us from all of those 20,000 donors and other sources, stay with us, solely and exclusively to serve those most in need in our community."

Most of the center's income comes from donors and government sources, he said, with only about 3 percent from the archdiocese.

It's too early to say whether the clergy abuse scandal has prompted donors to change their giving, Marx said.

Some donors say they're giving more at the expense of the archdiocese.

Michael Darger, who attends St. Frances Cabrini in Minneapolis, said his family decided to stop giving directly to the archdiocese. Instead, he said they give to other Catholic causes like Catholic Charities.

"I still give as much because I think the Catholic Church does a lot of good work and I believe in the causes but I shifted which organizations within the Catholic umbrella that I would directly support."

National researchers say Darger's approach is common.

Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate found that many Catholics dropped support for their respective diocese if a clergy sex abuse scandal occurred there. But the national survey found Catholics just increased giving to other Catholic causes.

"They say mentally 'If I'm going to give $100, I'm going to give it to my local pastor because he needs to keep the lights on and the heat on and keep the parish going," said researcher Mary Gautier.

Some Catholics won't be changing their giving.

Angela Muttonen, who attends church regularly at St. Peter in Forest Lake, said she'll continue to give to two parishes and the archdiocese. Muttonen hopes Catholics continue to attend church and forgive the church for past problems.

"I hope that they don't stop at the anger," she said. "I hope we don't stop at saying, 'I'm not going to give to the church because of this' and we continue to be courageous."

Editorial: Gallup diocese should unseal abuse records

Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board
December 18, 2013

It was a dirty secret for years. Now the extent of sexual abuses by some priests in the Diocese of Gallup is being hidden behind legal maneuvering in bankruptcy court.

Thirteen lawsuits have been filed in Arizona Superior Court since August 2010 alleging sexual abuse by six priests in the diocese from the 1950s to the 1980s.

In reaction to the lawsuits and in expectation of more to come, the diocese has filed for Chapter 11 reorganization bankruptcy protection. In addition to the pending lawsuits, three lawsuits and at least a dozen complaints have been settled – in secret. That makes determining the scope of the abuse difficult.

The diocese’s attorney says she does not know how many cases the diocese has settled, when the settlements were made, or how much the diocese has paid. Bankruptcy court records list 121 “confidential claimants” who have filed abuse claims against the diocese.

Victims’ attorneys say the bankruptcy filing is a way to hide the scope of the abuse. They say it stops lawsuits from being filed and depositions from being taken, halts the discovery process attorneys use to find information, postpones lawsuits in progress and seals the case from the public. In a Sunday Journal story by staff writer Olivier Uyttebrouck, an attorney who has 18 claimants who have not filed lawsuits yet says the filing makes it unlikely lawsuits can be filed after bankruptcy proceedings are over.

The attorney who filed the 13 pending lawsuits says diocese officials “don’t want people to know what was said” in depositions already taken for the cases.

That would include testimony under oath this September by Bishop James Wall and an unnamed longtime priest in the diocese. The depositions were sealed, and a hearing to consider opening them was stopped by the bankruptcy filing.

The diocese claims bankruptcy is an equitable way to compensate all the victims and is not being done to keep information secret. Its attorney says the diocese is very poor and “simply does not have the resources outside the context of the Chapter 11 to deal with the claims on a one-by-one basis.”

If the diocese is taking the bankruptcy route for the right reasons – to make restitution and bring closure to the greatest number of victims and their families – then it should not have a problem unsealing the depositions and other information.

For the diocese to convince not only the victims but also the greater community that has a public interest in knowing how many children were abused at the hands of men they trusted, it must take that action as a way of restoring faith in the church.

As it stands now, the diocese should not expect to be given the benefit of the doubt.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Why the pope is shaking up bishops

Alice L. Laffey (associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the College of the Holy Cross)
December 20, 2013

The late House Speaker Tip O'Neill once said, "All politics is local." Certainly there is some truth to this in the Roman Catholic Church. Most practicing Catholics experience the church through the parish they attend, and its sacramental life through the priests who minister there. Those priests are ordained for a particular diocese that exists, along with others, within a particular geographic area administered by its local bishop. That bishop is named by the Pope, but it is the Vatican Congregation for Bishops in Rome that has major influence in determining who is selected as a bishop and where he is assigned to administrate.

And this is where Pope Francis is making his agenda felt this week. By removing the American Cardinals Raymond Burke and Justin Rigali from the Congregation for Bishops and appointing Cardinal Donald Wuerl, he is signaling the most radical kind of change -- one that will affect the church's hierarchical structure from top to bottom. It is bishops who determine the tenor and emphases of local church communities.

The Congregation for Bishops is being peopled by a different kind of person, who will implement Francis' vision of a church governed as much by compassion as by orthodoxy. This is a big deal.

While Burke champions traditional marriage, condemns abortion and cherishes fine vestments, Rigali appeared less sensitive to the gravity of the priest-pedophilia tragedy, positions associated with Roman Catholic conservatives. By removing these men, Francis is shifting emphasis and establishing different priorities.

But Wuerl is hardly a liberal. While the new bishop of Pittsburgh deviated from his predecessor's practice of washing only men's feet and included women at the Holy Thursday service, a gesture associated with Jesus' serving his disciples, he also accepted Rome's request to serve as coadjutor of the Diocese of Seattle when its bishop expressed views regarding homosexuality, divorce and the priesthood that Rome considered too liberal. He also was executive secretary of a papally mandated study of U.S. seminaries.

So he is not so easily pigeonholed as either liberal or conservative. He takes pastoral initiative, seeming to believe that "authentic power is service," as Francis has said, but he is also a loyal son. Described in a 2013 National Catholic Reporter article as "dead center of the bishops' conference," he is reported as saying, "In the pulpit we're supposed to present the teaching with all of its unvarnished clarity, but when you step out of the pulpit, you have to meet people where they are and try to walk with them."

Francis has reconstituted the Congregation for Bishops beyond the replacement of two American prelates. All of his new appointments to the congregation, we may be sure, accord with his perspective: Compassion and solidarity are at the forefront. He prioritizes the hopes and the anguish of the people he seeks to serve rather than abstract right teaching.

Consistent with Francis' own witness to date and his efforts so far to renew the Curia (the Vatican bureaucracy), this appointment of carefully selected men to the Congregation for Bishops, men who share his priorities, may well be the most powerful tool available to him to effect far-reaching and sustained change -- in every parish throughout the entire world.

In his book "Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads," Chris Lowney begins each chapter with a quotation from Francis. These speak eloquently to why Burke and Rigali have been replaced, not for anything bad they have done but because of the new emphasis Francis desires to bring to his papacy.

Introducing "The New Leader" chapter: "Today's world stands in great need of witnesses, not so much of teachers but rather of witnesses. It's not so much about speaking, but speaking with our whole lives." Perhaps this is why Francis shared his birthday breakfast Tuesday with four homeless men.

For Chapter 4, "Washing Feet: Authentic Power Is Service": "This is a symbol, it is a sign. ... Washing feet means, 'I am at your service.' As a priest and as a bishop I must be at your service." Was it not at an Italian prison that Francis washed feet last Holy Thursday, including the feet of Muslim girls?

A third and telling quotation is taken from Francis' address to Brazilian bishops in July: "(U)nless we train ministers capable of warming people's hearts, of walking with them in the night, of dialoguing with their hopes and disappointments, of mending their brokenness, what hope can we have for our present and future journey?" No doubt Francis wants to guarantee that those who are appointed bishops are in accord with this perspective.

Francis, as he has presented himself, is neither conservative nor liberal. He is not about ideology but about the Gospel. Matthew 25 comes readily to mind: Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, visit those in prison -- as do the admonitions in Matthew 7:1: "Judge not, that you may not be judged," and 1 Colossians 3:13: "As the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also do."

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Australian abuse inquiry faces diplomatic standoff with Vatican

Stephen Crittenden
National Catholic Reporter
Dec. 19, 2013

Sydney - A diplomatic standoff appears to have developed in recent months between the Vatican and the New South Wales Special Commission of Inquiry into sex abuse, chaired by Deputy Senior Crown Prosecutor Margaret Cunneen.

Copies of correspondence released by the Special Commission this week show the papal nuncio to Australia, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, claimed diplomatic immunity in response to repeated requests for archival documentation that might assist Cunneen with her inquiry.

The inquiry was established in November 2012 to investigate sexual abuse by two priests of the Maitland-Newcastle diocese, Fr. Denis McAlinden and Fr. James Fletcher (both deceased), following allegations made by a senior New South Wales police whistleblower, Chief Inspector Peter Fox. The commission continues to inquire into and report on matters relating to the police investigation of the diocese.

The New South Wales Crown Solicitor's Office made the request on Cunneen's behalf Aug. 30 and again Oct. 22, asking for copies of any relevant documents held in the archives of the Apostolic Nunciature in Canberra or the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome.

The documents sought relate to "any allegations, complaints, suspicions or reports" regarding child sexual abuse by McAlinden or Fletcher, including a specific incident in 1995, when Australian church officials requested then-papal nuncio Archbishop Franco Brambilla to intervene on their behalf with the papal nuncio of the Philippines.

At the time, it had been discovered that McAlinden was operating as a priest in a remote diocese in the Philippines despite the suspension of his priestly faculties by his bishop in Australia.

McAlinden, an Irishman, arrived in Australia in 1949. His diocese of Maitland-Newcastle became aware he was a risk to children as early as 1953, but he was moved from parish to parish for more than four decades.

He was also posted to Papua New Guinea for extended periods and for a short period to New Zealand.

McAlinden was charged in Western Australia in 1992 but acquitted and died in 2005 without being convicted.

The Crown Solicitor's Office says relevant documents from dioceses in Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and the Philippines have been made available voluntarily.

Similar repeated requests have also been sent directly to Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, but there has been no reply.

The commission released the correspondence with Gallagher on Monday as part of a bundle of exhibits.

The correspondence shows that on Sept. 2, the nuncio sent an interim response, stating that he was submitting Cunneen's request to his superiors in Rome and would write again soon when he had a reply.

On Nov. 13, Gallagher replied again, reminding Cunneen that his office is "the high diplomatic representative of the Holy See to the Commonwealth" and citing "the protections afforded by international agreements, including the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations."

Article 24 of the 1961 Vienna Convention states that the archives and documents of a diplomatic mission "shall be inviolable at any time and wherever they may be."

The nuncio says Article 24 "thus states a high principle of international relations without which diplomatic missions would no longer be able freely to carry out their domestic and international responsibilities."

Gallagher goes on to say that his office will, however, be pleased to consider "specific requests" for information, "bearing in mind the expectation that it would not be appropriate to seek internal communications."

Gallagher was appointed to Canberra in December 2012, just weeks after former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the national Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

A former nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Lazzarotto, previously was papal ambassador to Ireland and was criticized for his failure to cooperate with Irish state inquiries into sexual abuse.

Gallagher, Lazzarotto's replacement, was widely seen as a positive signal of Rome's intention to pursue a more positive approach.

Giving evidence to Victoria's state parliamentary inquiry into child sexual abuse May 27, Cardinal George Pell gave a personal guarantee that "every document the Vatican had" would be made available to the commission.

Pell said a senior Vatican official assured him of this. "We have said that we will cooperate fully with the Royal Commission, and we mean to," he said.

Pressed about whether the same level of cooperation would be offered to the Victorian inquiry, the cardinal said he could not guarantee that, but would go back to the same Vatican official and ask again.

The papal nuncio's citing of the Vienna Convention places Pell's assurances about Vatican cooperation with the Royal Commission in some doubt.

On Nov. 14, the New South Wales Crown Solicitor, Ian Knight, wrote to Gallagher for a third time.

In this letter, he insisted that his earlier requests for information had indeed been specific and asks Gallagher to clarify what he means by stating that it is not appropriate to supply information about "internal communications."

"As you may appreciate, if this is intended to refer to communications within the Holy See, or within the Church generally (that is, between the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle or the Holy See) or as between the Apostolic Nunciature of Australia and the Holy See, it is respectfully suggested that such restriction may significantly impair the utility of the request for the documentation," Knight wrote.

He also reminded the nuncio about the guarantee of Vatican cooperation given by Pell and enclosed an extract from the transcript of his evidence to the Victorian inquiry.

"Of course, this Commission is separate and distinct from both the Royal Commission and the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry," Knight wrote, "but I trust that the sentiment of cooperation would similarly extend to this Commission's processes."

Hype and hope for the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate

A verbal war of charges and counter charges surrounds the Vatican crackdown on the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate appointing an outside commissioner and restricting their use of the Latin Mass. Some traditionalist groups see this as an attack on the Latin Mass. This war is now spilling over from the Italian to English speaking world as attested to by the two articles below.

Michael J Miller
Catholic World Report
December 16, 2013

Pity the poor Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, persecuted by heartless bureaucrats who despise all things preconciliar! Weep for their Superior General, put under house arrest, his councilors banished to Earth’s remotest ends! Woe to the Vatican commissar, systematically demolishing the community, its charism, and its apostolic works!

Victimization by the authorities makes for gripping headlines. Since Capuchin Father Fidenzio Volpi was appointed in July 2013 as Apostolic Commissioner to govern the FFI temporarily, the Italian press has publicized a steady stream of serious accusations: the spokesman for the community had acted treacherously and exceeded his authority; severe penalties were imposed on the aged founder, Father Stefano Manelli, without due canonical process. French-, German-, and English-language traditional Catholic websites and blogs have spread the stories as proof positive that insidious forces in the Vatican Curia are dead-set on eradicating the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

Curiously absent from all these accounts is any explanation grounded in fact of the actions taken by the Apostolic Commissioner in governing the FFI. Seemingly harsh decisions made by Father Volpi are reported, but not his own stated reasons for those decisions. Instead, every real or perceived slight, setback, inconvenience, or disciplinary measure is ascribed to hostility toward the traditional Latin Mass and those devoted to it.

The axiom “Audiatur et altera pars” applies here: “The other side deserves a hearing.” This article calls attention to some basic facts that have been overlooked in the media hype and summarizes Father Volpi’s written responses to a number of objections and accusations. The source material used is the Italian-language documentation—survey results, press releases, open letters, clarifications—posted at the order's website, www.immacolata.com.

Note that Catholic World Report respects the confidentiality of internal communications of the Apostolic Commissioner with the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate and will neither publish nor comment on their contents, unless and until such documents are posted on the official website of the religious community.

Background information

The Institute of Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate was founded in 1970 by Father Stefano M. Manelli and Father Gabriel M. Pelletieri, who were then Conventual Franciscan Friars. Their purpose was to renew Franciscan consecrated life based on historical Franciscan sources, the spirituality of Maximilian Kolbe, and the conciliar decree Perfectae caritatis. As they started their austere life of prayer, penance, and apostolic work, they chose as their new home the poorest friary in the Province of Naples, located in Piano della Croce in Frigento. One year later they started a novitiate, and in 1975 an internal seminary. The Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate were founded by the same co-founders in 1982, with the specific apostolate of diffusing the Gospel through the mass media. In 1990 the archbishop of Benevento granted the institute of friars the status of Diocesan Right. That same year, an affiliated public association of laypeople was founded, the Militia of the Immaculate Mediatrix. The FFI rapidly spread worldwide, and based on recommendations from many bishops it was officially recognized by the Holy See as an Institute of Pontifical Right on January 1, 1998, the Solemnity of the Mother of God. The Holy See approved the Sisters’ Institute on November 9, 1998.

In 2012, five Franciscan Fathers from the motherhouse at the Casa Mariana Frigento formally petitioned the Congregation for Religious, asking them to intervene, because they had found it impossible to dialogue with Father Manelli about the governance of their tripartite community. As a result, the Holy See ordered an apostolic visitation of the Institute, which took place from July 2012 to July 2013.

No one disputes the fact that the FFI is one of the rare postconciliar religious communities that has thrived and done excellent apostolic and missionary work. It is naive, however, to assume that the government of a fledgling institute with three branches should be running smoothly and trouble-free less than 15 years after it received papal approval. The call to Rome for help came, not from a handful of malcontents, as they are often portrayed, but from friars who had collaborated closely with the Minister General of the Institute.

On September 19, 2013, authorization was obtained from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life to publish the results of a questionnaire sent by the Apostolic Visitor to all the friars in perpetual vows. Slightly less than two-fifths said that the Minister General was governing well; 61 percent said that there were significant problems. Of the latter group, almost three quarters thought that the problems could not be resolved by an Ordinary General Chapter but required either an Extraordinary General Chapter or a Vatican-appointed Commissioner. The response to the question about the Minister General’s decisions in liturgical matters was similar: almost two to one, the friars admitted that there were problems, and about half of the respondents said that extraordinary measures were needed to resolve them (77 percent of 64 percent = 49.3 percent). Finally, more than half (53 percent) said that relations with the Superior General of the Sisters’ Institute were problematic, and of them, 85 percent considered extraordinary measures necessary.

Again, the argument that all was well until Vatican bureaucrats unfairly singled out the “conservative” FFI for persecution is baseless. Members of a religious community, like loyal members of a family, usually do not air their disagreements in public but try to deal with them privately. The statistics summarized above clearly indicate that it was high time for the FFI to seek outside help from the authorities in Rome and that there was significant support for that petition.


read the entire (long detailed) article at the Catholic World Report

The traditionalist site Rorate has already rebutted this article in the following entitled
Informed source picks apart erroneous Catholic World Report propaganda piece

Rorate has, from the beginning, done everything we can to shed light on the unjust and problematic Vatican intervention in the Franciscans of the Immaculate (FI). This week, Catholic World Report ran a completely and thoroughly erroneous story on the FI that they could have easily avoided with nothing more than Google searches. But readers of this blog already know the problems with that venue as we have discussed in the past (see here and here)

We now bring you not only a rebuttal of the story but one of the most thorough accounts of this sad and unnecessary situation by a very well-informed source (we cannot underline this enough). While we urge anyone who wishes to reprint this to do so, we must request you cite Rorate Caeli as the source, and either reprint it in full or link to the full story.

From our very well-informed source:

Michael J. Miller, writing for Catholic World Report, wishes English-speaking readers to hear the “other side” of the Franciscans of the Immaculate controversy, namely, the Commissioner’s side. Unfortunately, he has done so by uncritically repeating arguments, some of which were answered months ago, and others more recently.

----- read their entire argument at Rorate Caeli

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The tragedy in St. Paul

Michael Sean Winters
National Catholic Reporter
December 18, 2013

The meltdown in the Archdiocese of St. Paul is tragic in the strict, Shakespearean sense of the word. In a Shakespeare tragedy, either circumstances conspire to ruin the protagonists (think “Romeo and Juliet”), or the character flaws of the protagonist bring about his ruin (think “Julius Caesar”). In this case, both the circumstances and the character flaws are operative and profoundly tragic. Let me start by saying that nothing I write today should be understood as lending credence to the charge that Archbishop Nienstedt touched a young man inappropriately on the buttocks. The charge smells fishy to me and, besides, all are presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Nonetheless, false or not, the charge exposes the deeper and more consequential reasons why Archbishop Nienstedt must resign.

The bishops of the United States, as a body, now lack the credibility on the issue of clergy sex abuse that they have tried for eleven years to fashion for themselves. The lack of accountability for bishops who violate their own rules, set forth in the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children, has been so pronounced that the people in the pews are, sadly, prepared to believe the worst about a prelate who is accused of either engaging in inappropriate conduct or of covering up such conduct on the part of others. If Bishop Robert Finn has been sacked the day he pled guilty to the charge of criminal negligence, things might be different. If Bishops Bruskewitz and Vasa had been told that they must either comply with the annual audits of their child protection procedures or resign, things might be different. If Archbishop Myers had been told to resign, rather than to accept a coadjutor, things might be different. But, none of those if’s came to pass and we are where we are.

Earlier this month, the Vatican announced a commission to help address the issue of clergy sex abuse. At the press conference announcing the new commission, Cardinal Sean O’Malley was asked whether or not the new commission, or some other body, would be tasked with holding bishops accountable. He said that this needed to be done but that it was unclear, as yet, how and who would undertake that work. It is imperative that at the February meeting of the Council of Cardinals, followed by the meeting of the full consistory, a process and a procedure – preferably with due process and transparent procedures – be rolled out for assessing charges that a bishop has failed to follow the norms for handling sex abuse case and disciplining those bishops who are determined to have so failed.

As I have written before, the issue of holding bishops accountable for the way they treat charges of child sex abuse is not the only issue of governance facing the Church. It may not even be the most important issue. But, here in the United States, it is the threshold issue. If the Church doesn’t get this right, the people of God will, quite rightly, refuse to recognize the moral authority of the bishops as a whole or as individuals. That may not be entirely fair. It may not be entirely true. But, it is undeniably the fact and it is a fact of their own making. Nothing, absolutely nothing, has so damaged the reputation of the Catholic Church as clergy sex abuse. And, at this moment in time, when the Church has fresh wind in its sails, we must not deflate those sails, being dragged back again and again by this issue as we are today by the happenings in St. Paul.

So much for the circumstances. Archbishop Nienstedt must also acknowledge the ways his own actions and words have helped erode the confidence of the people of his archdiocese in his capacity to lead them. He fired Jennifer Haselberger, a chancery official dealing with these cases, instead of listening to her, when she warned that the sex abuse cases were not being dealt with properly. The firing of Ms. Haselberger showed that the bonds of clericalism are still stronger than the bonds of charity.

Three days ago, Archbishop Nienstedt went to a parish and publicly apologized for his handling of the sex abuse mess. Well, that is not quite right. What Archbishop Nienstedt did was start by blaming everybody else but himself for the mess. “When I arrived here seven years ago, one of the first things I was told was that this whole issue of clerical sex abuse had been taken care of and I didn’t have to worry about it,” he told reporters after the Mass. “Unfortunately I believed that. … And so my biggest apology today is to say I overlooked this. I should have investigated it a lot more than I did. When the story started to break at the end of September, I was as surprised as anyone else.”

Archbishop Nienstedt stood before the reporters clad in all the vestiture of his office, still in his chasuble, miter on his head, crozier in hand. But, his words spoke a different language. If your teenager gave an apology that began by blaming others, you would sit him or her down and explain what a real apology is like and why the blame game nullifies it. Nienstedt has said he would “do anything” to help heal the situation but, at the very beginning of the video clip, an aide announces “no questions,” so the archbishop is not willing to do anything is he? He is not even willing to take questions. There is an immaturity at work here, the sense that this man, so far from being a leader, is more like a scared little boy.

Finally, and it pains me to remind readers of this fact, but Nienstedt has demonstrated before that on issues related to human sexuality, something is not quite right. In 2006, while serving as the Bishop of New Ulm, Nienstedt wrote a column in his diocesan newspaper urging his flock not to attend the movie “Brokeback Mountain.” Nienstedt wrote of the movie, “The story is about two lonely cowboys herding sheep up on a mountain range. One night after a drinking binge, one man makes a pass at the other and within seconds the latter mounts the former in an act of wanton anal sex.” I must say that I never in all my years expected to read the phrase “wanton anal sex” in my diocesan newspaper. In my experience, diocesan newspapers tend to be read by an older, largely female, demographic. Did they really need to read that phrase? Why did he feel the need to include it? Am I the only person who thinks that column about that movie, combined with what we now know about Nienstedt’s handling of the sex abuse cases, indicates that there are some profound issues of psycho-sexual development, and likely some self-hatred, at work here?

The entire episode in St. Paul also indicates why the nuncios of the world must find a different way of vetting candidates for bishop. Did that column not land on anyone’s radar screen? Or, sadly but more likely, did that column convince the powers that be that Nienstedt was the kind of culture warrior needed at this moment in the life of the Church? The announcement on Monday of the shake-up at the Congregation for Bishops is an opportunity for the entire Church to hit the reset button on episcopal appointments. Who cares that Nienstedt may have been a good cardinal’s secretary. The man should never have been a bishop and certainly no nuncio should solicit the advice of someone like Nienstedt about other candidates.

It breaks my heart to see the once vibrant see of St. Paul come to this moment in its history. One of my heroes was the first Archbishop of St. Paul, Archbishop John Ireland, the “consecrated blizzard of the Northwest” as he was known. But, we are where we are. There is no way that Nienstedt can turn this situation around, as his faux apology, far more than these charges announced yesterday, reveals. The good of the Church, not just in St. Paul but in the entire country, requires he relinquish his office and give a new man a new start at righting the situation. That may be unfair. It is certainly unfortunate. But it is also, now, unavoidable.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

St. Paul Police Chief: Archdiocese Has Not Been Very Cooperative on Sex Abuse Cases, That Has to Change

Megan Stewart
KSTP Saint Paul
December 17, 2013

St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith said Tuesday archdiocesan officials have not been very cooperative on priest sex abuse cases. He urged the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul to be more forthcoming with information on previous allegations of sex abuse.

In a news conference he said, “I want to let the public know one thing: let me be very clear on this," Smith said. "We have through written and verbal requests made clear our desire to speak to individuals connected to the archdiocese and we have been told no."

Smith says police have not had the access to interview clergy members in recent investigations into the previous allegations. As late as last week, Smith said they were told no.

"In order for us to bring these cases to the next step in the process of concluding investigations and to bring them to closure, we again, now publicly, call upon those individuals to speak with us," Smith said. "That’s why we are here today.”

Smith said he sent a letter, in addition to numerous verbal requests, asking for access to members of the archdiocese who have relevant knowledge of the procedures within the archdiocese.

“It’s never good enough when someone tells us no and that’s why we have to work with our partners," Smith said. "And let me clarify. I request to talk with people in voluntary interviews to learn more information to further our investigations, but you have to have probable cause. If someone tells us no, they don’t want to talk to us and the archdiocese says they’re cooperating you can come to the reasonable conclusion of where we are here today.”

When questioned why St. Paul police have not obtained a search warrant for the "secret documents,” Smith said they have not been able to get enough access to information that would justify a search warrant. “You need probable cause to get search warrants and to do that, you’ve got to be able to talk with people and we haven’t been able to do that so far.”

The Archdiocese came out with a statement earlier Tuesday saying someone had come forward with allegations against Archbishop John Nienstedt.

In terms of the investigation directly involving Nienstedt, Smith said police have not yet spoken to the Archbishop about the case because it is less than 24 hours old. He said it is too early in the investigation to know if the archdiocese will cooperate.

In a written statement Nienstedt said: "I hope that the investigations can be thorough but quick. I already long to be back in public ministry—to be able to serve as the Lord has called me to serve. I regret this will be my last column until the present investigations are complete."

Smith said police have scheduled a meeting with an attorney from the Archdiocese Wednesday.

"Today the archdiocese has voiced its commitment to cooperation. And let me tell you this, ‘I expect nothing less,’”said Smith.

The archdiocese made the following statement in response to Tuesday's news conference:

"The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis greatly appreciates the comments by St. Paul Police Chief Smith today. We affirm that we received his letter and answered within the two-day span requested. In our response, we asked for an opportunity to meet with members of the St. Paul Police. Our hope was that, through this meeting, which the police set for tomorrow, we could better understand the requests for information in greater detail.

We look forward to the meeting, which will include not only an attorney but also our new Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia, Fr. Charles Lachowitzer, as was requested by Chief Smith. Although we cannot speak for Fr. McDonough and his choice not to speak with the police, as we have stated repeatedly, the archdiocese seeks to cooperate with the police and all civil authorities."

Allegations case Minnesota archbishop to remove himself from ministry

Brian Rowe
National Catholic Reporter
December 17, 2013

The archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis has voluntarily removed himself from public ministry while local authorities investigate an accusation against him of inappropriate touching four years ago.

The Twin Cities archdiocese learned last week of an allegation that Archbishop John Nienstedt touched a young man's buttocks in 2009 during a group photo session following an area confirmation ceremony. The archdiocese said it directed the mandated reporter who first learned of the alleged incident to report it to St. Paul police.

Upon consulting with Carlo Maria Viganò, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, Nienstedt decided to step down from public ministry effective immediately while the investigation is ongoing, according to the archdiocese. Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché, the vicar general, will take the archbishop's place in public duties.

Spokesman Jim Accurso said the archdiocese could not comment further as the investigation is pending.

Addressing the incident in what he described as a "difficult letter for me to write to you," Nienstedt denied any wrongdoing.

"I do not know the individual involved; he has not been made known to me. I presume he is sincere in believing what he claims, but I must say that this allegation is absolutely and entirely false," he wrote.

"I have never once engaged in any inappropriate contact with a minor and I have tried to the very best of my ability to serve this Archdiocese and the church faithfully, with honor and due regard for the rights of all, even those with whom I disagree," he wrote in the letter.

Nienstedt explained in the letter his typical procedure for photo shoots like the one in question, saying he normally stands with one hand on his crozier, or staff, and the other on the right shoulder of the newly confirmed or on his pallium.

"I do that deliberately and there are hundreds of photographs to verify that fact," he wrote.

While the investigation plays out, Nienstedt said he will use the time to pray for Twin Cities Catholics and the accuser and asked for Catholics to pray for him.

The archdiocese called the steps it has taken, including Nienstedt's removal from public ministry, as moves that "further confirm that all within the archdiocese will be subject to the internal policies we have established."

Francis dumps US cardinal who is outspoken critic of abortion, gay marriage

Associated Press
December 16, 2013

Pope Francis announced changes in the influential Vatican office that evaluates and nominates candidates for bishop around the world.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington was appointed Monday to the Congregation for Bishops. The pope also reconfirmed Cardinal William Levada, the former archbishop of San Francisco and former head of the Vatican's orthodoxy watchdog office.

Some members of the congregation were very conspicuously not retained. Cardinal Raymond Burke, former Archbishop of St. Louis, will no longer serve in the office.

Burke is considered an outspoken critic of abortion and same-sex marriage and a favorite of conservative Catholics. He has also been publicly critical of Francis's changes in the direction of the church. Burke retains his position as the head of the Vatican high court, the Apostolic Signatura.

Burke drew attention in the U.S. in 2004 when he said he would deny Communion to Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, a Roman Catholic who supports abortion rights.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Francis' flush - at bishops table, pope runs the Wuerlpool

Rocco Palmo
Whispers in the Loggia
December 16, 2013

While a Franciscan "flush" of the membership of the Congregation for Bishops has been expected for months, the move's execution came with a flourish at Roman Noon as the Pope reshuffled roughly half the prior makeup of the all-powerful "Thursday table" that recommends nominees for episcopal appointments in the developed world.

Topping the slate of his new picks, Francis tapped Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington to join the body's membership. Already a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on B16's nod, the ever-assiduous, 73 year-old DC prelate (a veteran of the Curia from his early days overseeing the Congregation for the Clergy as priest-secretary to Cardinal John Wright) becomes the table's lone resident member on these shores...

...because in yet another show of his Wuerl-esque eye on the Curia he's inherited and aims to drastically reform, Papa Bergoglio simultaneously bumped both Cardinals Justin Rigali (emeritus of Philadelphia; the Congregation's secretary from 1989-94) and Raymond Burke (the Holy See's Wisconsin-born "chief justice," whose effectiveness at the Bishops' table has long stoked discontent or worse among many of his confreres) from the Congregation's roster. Likewise among those shuffled out was Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco of Genoa, the formidable president of the Italian bishops' conference.

For those who enjoy what Italians do best, that Wuerl – already known to be a sought-out figure in Francis' orbit – has replaced Burke, his historic rival and cardinal-classmate, on the Congregation's membership is nothing short of extraordinary. With today's nod, the District cardinal becomes the first shepherd of the nation's capital to have a seat at the Curia's most significant table of all; until now, only prior archbishops of New York, Boston and Philadelphia have known the role.

Along with Wuerl, the Pope gave a nod to the West by confirming the now-retired CDF prefect, Cardinal William Levada, in his membership at Bishops. An LA native, Levada, 77 – who became the highest-ranking US prelate in Vatican history when Benedict named him as his own successor at the "Holy Office" after his 2005 election – now spends the bulk of his downtime at a long-held condo in Long Beach.

A "raving moderate" just like Wuerl, Levada is believed to have had a key role in convincing Benedict to name The Donald to Washington in 2006. A year after Papa Ratzinger's election, the move marked the now-retired Pope's first major US appointment.

Back to the Bishops' table, among others newly named to it include the neo-Secretary of State, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the UK's top prelate – Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster – the new head of the ever-rising Synod of Bishops, Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, and Francis' trusted prefect of Religious, Brazilian Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz.

As previously noted, Francis has already announced his first Consistory to create new cardinals for next 22 February. The gathering will be preceded by what's apparently become a two-day summit of the entire College.

The Senate's first meeting with the Pope since his election, the plenary's agenda is believed to be centered on the reform of the Roman Curia.

Alongside the shake-up of the membership, Francis reconfirmed Cardinal Marc Ouellet as the Congregation's prefect. In September, the pontiff stunned observers by naming the Brazilian Msgr Ilson Montanari – a 54 year-old junior minutante (desk clerk) – as Bishops' new archbishop-secretary following Baldisseri's transfer to the Synod post.

The move comes on the installation day of one of Francis' most prominent US picks to date, now Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Archbishop John Nienstedt to apologize at Edina church

Raya Zimmerman and Dave Orrick
Pioneer Press
December 14, 2013

Archbishop John Nienstedt, who has faced public criticism following the revelation of sexual abuse cases in his archdiocese, is expected to apologize Sunday at an Edina church.

Nienstedt's plan to deliver the homily at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Parish comes roughly two weeks after a Ramsey County judge ordered the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to release a list of 34 priests "credibly accused" of sexually abusing children in decades prior.

"I am here to apologize for the indignation that you justifiably feel. You deserve better," Nienstedt wrote in the homily, which was posted on Our Lady of Grace's website (olgparish.org/homilies/3rd-sunday-advent).

Nienstedt, the church's top official, and the archdiocese have been under scrutiny since the fall. Spurred by a whistleblower, Minnesota Public Radio and other media began reporting failures by the institution in dealing with clergy who sexually abused children, including allegations of cover-ups.

"The negative news reports about past incidents of clerical sexual abuse in this local Church have rightly been met with shame, embarrassment and outrage that such heinous acts could be perpetrated by men who had taken priestly vows as well as bishops who failed to remove them from ministry," according to an advance copy of the remarks.

He wrote that only one of the crimes against minors has happened in his archdiocese since 2002, which he said is "one too many."

The list of 34 priests dates to 1950. It includes at least one priest from 92 of the archdiocese's 188 parishes.

Neinstedt has said that a review of clergy files is ongoing, and a Ramsey County judge has ordered names of priests credibly accused since 2004 to be disclosed by Jan. 6.

A former Our Lady of Grace priest, Rev. Jerome Kern, was sued earlier this month by a man in his 50s who said Kern abused him when he was 12 to 16 years old. Kern was accused in a 1993 lawsuit of abusing a 12-year-old boy, although Kern never was charged with a crime.

"The majority of those allegations go back to the 1970s and 1980s," according to Nienstedt's homily. "Again, that is not to excuse those actions or diminish the harm done to their victims. But it does indicate that progress is being made in reducing the incidence of such terrible misconduct. There is reason, even now, to be hopeful."

The string of allegations started when top archdiocese officials failed to report possible criminal activity to police regarding former Mahtomedi priest Jonathan Shelley's computer and did not alert law enforcement or parishioners to a St. Paul priest who exhibited "troublesome" sexual behavior. The priest, Curtis Wehmeyer, later was convicted of molesting two boys.

The unfolding scandal featured the St. Paul police in October publicly appealing for victims to come forward. That followed a reopening of an investigation into allegations that the Rev. Jonathan Shelley possessed child pornography on a computer he owned in 2004. Shelley denied the allegation, and the case was closed Sept. 29 after discs turned over to police by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis contained only adult porn.

Police reopened the case a few days later when a Hugo parishioner turned over files to police, which he said he had copied from Shelley's hard drive.

Calls for Nienstedt to resign began to be heard, and some priests sharply criticized the archdiocesan leadership. In November, some 150 people marched on Cathedral Hill in St. Paul demanding he step down.

Over the past three months, Nienstedt wrote in his homily, he and his staff have worked to ensure safe environments in their churches, schools and religious programs, "especially minors and vulnerable adults." He wrote that they have been committed to reaching out to victims and regaining the trust and reassurance of Catholics and clergy.

He will be presiding over the 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. mass at Our Lady of Grace church in Edina.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Pope must decide what to do with disgraced Legion as it moves to elect new leader

Associated Press
December 13, 2013

left: Maciel with Pope John Paul II

First, one of the Legion of Christ's top officials abruptly quit the troubled religious order in frustration over the slow pace of change. Then priests in the cult-like movement empowered proteges and associates of the order's disgraced founder, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, to vote for their next leader.

The past month has seen some setbacks the Legion's efforts to rehabilitate itself as it moves toward electing a new leadership next month, the culmination of a three-year Vatican experiment aiming to overhaul a damaged order. Yet even as the Legion prepares to present a new face, high-ranking members continue to speak nostalgically and even reverently of Maciel — a sexual predator who molested his seminarians, fathered three children and was, in the words of Vatican-appointed investigators, "devoid of scruples and authentic religious meaning."

It all means that hopes are dwindling that the Vatican's effort to radically reform the Legion has succeeded, raising the question of what Pope Francis will do with the once-powerful and wealthy order after the mandate of the papal envoy running it expires.

Francis' predecessor, Benedict XVI, took over the Legion in 2010 and appointed a Vatican cardinal to govern it after investigators determined that the congregation itself needed to be "purified" of Maciel's influence. In reality, the Vatican knew well of Maciel's crimes for decades but turned a blind eye, impressed instead by his ability to bring millions of dollars and thousands of seminarians into to the church.

Rome's failure to stop him marks the most egregious case of its indifference to victims of priestly sexual abuse, and has tarnished the legacy of Pope John Paul II, soon to be canonized, because he had held up the Legion as a model for the faithful.

To be sure, some progress has been made during the past three years of Vatican receivership: The order rewrote its constitutions, released statistics about sex abuse cases, and a well-respected priest recently begged forgiveness from Maciel's victims for how he and the Legion ignored and defamed them. But if recent elections in the Legion's consecrated lay branches are any indication, the membership itself has voted for the status quo.

That mindset has driven dozens of disillusioned priests and hundreds of seminarians and consecrated members out of the order: On Saturday, the Legion will ordain 31 new priests, half as many as were ordained just three years ago.

Last month, the Legion's reform-minded governing counselor, the Rev. Doamar De Guedes, announced that he was not only resigning his position but was leaving the congregation altogether, a major blow coming just weeks before the Jan. 8 assembly to approve the new constitutions and elect a new superior.

In his farewell letter, De Guedes said he didn't have the strength to carry on. But the Legion's spokesman, the Rev. Benjamin Clariond, acknowledged that De Guedes was often the "minority" in pressing for deeper and faster reform and that this was a source of "tension" for him.

"We grant that the reform has gone slowly up to now," Clariond said in an email. "That is because we intend to effect changes that are not just cosmetic, but that address the underlying causes of the problems ... As is understandable, this takes time."

But with the mandate of the papal delegate, Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, ending after the assembly, key questions are being asked now that will pose a major test for Francis: Has the Legion truly shed the cult-like practices that French bishops recently denounced in a letter to victims of spiritual abuse? Will Francis approve the constitutions and essentially give the Legion a clean bill of health? Or will he make some provision for continued Vatican oversight after De Paolis leaves?

Francis has already said the Legion's assembly, or General Chapter, isn't the end of the reform process but merely a "step."

Yet the process itself seems questionable when even the Legion's current leader continues to speak fondly of Maciel.

In a recent interview with a Spanish-language online journal, Vida Nueva, the Rev. Sylvester Heereman said that regardless of the bad things Maciel did, "he continues to be someone to whom I owe a lot, whom I remember with a mixture of gratitude and compassion, even though I understand and respect those who personally suffered and cannot share those feelings."

Recently, a senior member of the Legion's consecrated lay branch, Alejandro Pinelo Leon, visited Maciel's tomb in Cotija, Mexico on a pilgrimage of sorts: "Our founder teaches us many things and before his tomb I got emotional and thanked him for all that I learned about God from him," he wrote on Facebook.

The Rev. Thomas Berg, an American priest who left the Legion in 2009, said such nostalgia shows that a considerable portion of the Legion membership is still unable to shake itself from Maciel's toxic influence.

"The continual resurgence in private and public of the story-line that Macial is a 'flawed instrument,' but an instrument of God no less, is proof in the pudding that the purification has not gone deep enough," he said.

Other indications include the roster of men who will elect the next superior: They include 19 existing superiors and 42 priests elected by the Legionary membership to represent them. The existing superiors include many of the top Legion priests who were close to Maciel and his successor. Electors chosen by the rank and file to represent them include Maciel proteges or still other associates. One recently was forced to explain a bizarre email exchange with a woman under his spiritual guidance.

"With so much of the old guard, so many men who Maciel put in as superiors, and younger priests formed under their influence and supervision, there is no hope of serious reform," said Glenn Favreau, who left the Legion in 1997 before being ordained a priest and later co-founded ReGain, an online community for former Legion priests that was sued by the Legion after parts of the order's constitutions were posted on an Internet message board.

Clariond, the Legion spokesman, defended the roster of electors as being fair and representative.

"If you consider that for 42 of the people participating this is their first General Chapter we really cannot be speaking of an 'old guard,'" he said. "We feel confident that all views will be present, and that the work of renewal will continue on."

But Xavier Leger, a French seminarian who left the Legion in 2006, said the Vatican's reform was flawed from the start since the Holy See has relied almost exclusively on current Legion members for its information.

"When you are confronted with cult-like behavior," said Leger, "the testimony of someone who is under the influence of a cult, this testimony cannot be trusted."

According to Berg, the American priest, there was never any way the Legion could reinvent itself in such a short time. "Such a toxic environment cannot be rehabilitated in a matter of three short years," Berg said in an email to AP. "While the Legionaries desperately want to believe that they are nearing the completion of the reform, this is just one further indication of their inability to deal with reality."

Thursday, December 12, 2013

(Delhi) police arrest bishop for defending Dalit Christians

The Dalits, people traditionally called untouchables, still experience widespread discrimination in India. Non discrimination laws and statutory benefits similar to American affirmative action were extended to Dalits in the past , but non-Hindu Dalits were not included. This discriminatory exclusion was removed for Sikhs in 1956 and for Buddhists in 1982, but remains for Christians.

Vatican Insider
December 12, 2013

The Catholic Archbishop of Delhi, Mgr. Anil Couto, was arrested by Delhi police today, along with other Christian bishops and leaders of other confessions. The Vice Secretary General and spokesman of the Indian Bishops’ Conference Fr. Joseph Chinnayyan reported the news to Fides news agency.

The archbishop joined other Christian leaders and lay faithful in a peaceful protest march in support of the rights of Dalit Christians. Demonstrators had arrived at Jantar Mantar in downtown New Delhi and were heading towards the Indian Parliament. Fides learnt that the police were violent towards the demonstrators and arrested many of them. Archbishop Anil Couto, Protestant Christian bishops Alwan Masih, Roger Gaikwad and Vijayesh Lal, leader of the Evangelical Fellowship of India and All India Christian Council Secretary General, John Dayal, a Catholic, were among those arrested.

According to Fr. Chinnayyan, bishops are asking for a delegation of demonstrators to be received by the government and in Parliament which is currently holding its winter session. Christian leaders “will be released by this evening,” the spokesman adds. A complaint was filed against Delhi police for having assaulted and beaten Catholic nuns and priests.

Demonstrators were demanding the repeal of the 1950 Presidential Order that denied statutory benefits for Dalit Christians. The benefits were extended to Sikhs in 1956 and the Buddhists in 1982. Religious minorities in India see this provision as “completely unconstitutional” but the governments that preceded us have turned a deaf ear to the demand of Christians,” Mgr. Anil Couto said. “Peaceful protests have taken place before, but today the police has acted in a brutal way against defenceless demonstrators,” Christians say.

The Global Council of Indian Christians sent a note sent to Fides saying it was “shocked and dismayed by the provocative arrest of the bishops and other leaders.” The Council recalls a previous case on 2 November 1997, when bishops were arrested for defending the Dalits.

Some political leaders like Jayalalitha, Prime Minister of Tamil Nadu, strongly supports the cause of Dalit Christians and Muslims, saying that the issue needs to be addressed immediately and should be discussed in Parliament.