Sunday, June 30, 2013

Under pressure, Swiss Catholic priests reject ecumenical eucharistic celebration

Pray Tell
June 30, 2013

All eyes were on Dübendorf in Switzerland yesterday evening, where a Capuchin and Jesuit priest were planning to celebrate Eucharist with a Lutheran pastor, three Reformed pastors, and an Orthodox priest. Such “intercelebration” (as it’s called there) has become a custom for the past five years on the annual feast of Ss. Peter and Paul on June 29th by the organization “Ökumenisches Tisch-Gemeinschaft Symbolon” (“Ecumenical Table Fellowship Symbolon”). A week ago Symbolon issued a manifesto calling leaders of the various Church traditions to common Eucharistic celebrations.

But this year the Catholic priests bowed out at the last minute – in order not to make the deliberations more difficult for Swiss Catholic bishops called to Rome this Monday to discuss the controversial Pfarrei-Initiative (“Parish Initiative”). The Pfarrei-Initiative, a Catholic movement which calls for various reforms including ecumenical Eucharistic celebrations, is supported by 540 signatories (priests and pastoral ministers) with a further 1,090 signing to indicate their sympathy.

The church of the Lazarist order was packed last night, singing rang out, there was much incense (the rite was based on the famous 1982 Lima document “Baptism, Eucharist, Ministry” of the World Council of Churches). And then Capuchin Fr. Willi Anderau, speaking also for Jesuit Fr. Josef Bruhin, announced they were declining to co-preside this year. It became very quiet, then there were murmurs of anger, until a woman shouted out, “I protest against the half-heartedness of this thing” and left the church. A few joined her, but most remained.

The Eucharist continued, with the Lutheran and Reformed pastors presiding. The Orthodox archpriest Ignatios Papadellis, under pressure from his superiors, was not present at all. The two Catholic priests participated as guests, but remained sitting as their Protestant colleagues distributed the blessed eucharistic elements.

Speaking to the media after the celebration, Anderau said there was intense pressure from the Diocese of Chur. The bishops have been called to Rome to discuss the Pfarrei-Initiative, and he indicated that the intercelebration would have given ammunition to the opponents of the Initiative.

Today the Diocese of Chur called on the Pfarrei-Initiative to distance itself clearly from such intercelebration. Though the Initiative did not sponsor the intercelebration, its statement is supportive of such celebrations, and Anderau and Bruhin are both signatories of the Initiative. The diocese said in a statement that the reason given for declining to participate – not to encumber tomorrow’s discussion between the Swiss bishops and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – leads to the conclusion that they are not intending, “beyond such tactics, to hold themselves to the order of the universal Church.”

Tomorrow the Catholic bishops of Basel, Chur, and St. Gall – Felix Gmür, Vitus Huonder, and Markus Büchel – will meet with the prefect of the CDF, Archbishop Gerhard Müller.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Traditionalists indicate definitive break with Catholic church

Catholic News Service
June 28, 2013

On the 25th anniversary of the illicit ordination of four bishops by traditionalist Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the Society of St. Pius X indicated a definitive break of talks with the Catholic Church.

In a statement June 27, three of the four bishops originally ordained expressed “their filial gratitude towards their venerable founder, who, after so many years spent serving the Church and the Sovereign Pontiff, so as to safeguard the faith and the Catholic priesthood, did not hesitate to suffer the unjust accusation of disobedience."

The document — titled “Declaration on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the episcopal consecrations (30th June 1988 – 27th June 2013)” — is signed by Bishops Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais and Alfonso de Galarreta. Bishop Richard Williamson, also ordained by Archbishop Lefebvre, was expelled last year from the society.

The group was founded in 1970 by the French native Archbishop Lefebvre in response to errors he believed had crept into the Catholic Church following the Second Vatican Council, which took place 1962-1965.

Interpretation and legacy of the Second Vatican Council was a major stumbling block for the society in their ongoing negotiations with the Vatican, aimed at healing their 24-year rift.

The society has also had a strained relationship with the Church since its founder ordained four bishops against the will of Pope John Paul II in 1988.

In their statement Thursday, the group contradicted now-retired Pope Benedict XVI’s stance on Vatican II. The letter made explicit reference to the “hermeneutic of continuity,” rejecting the interpretive lens by which Benedict XVI saw the conciliar documents in light of the Church’s Tradition.

The bishops say that the documents themselves have grave errors and that they cannot be interpreted without clashing with Tradition.

The “cause of the grave errors which are in the process of demolishing the Church does not reside in a bad interpretation of the conciliar texts — a ‘hermeneutic of rupture’ which would be opposed to a ‘hermeneutic of reform in continuity,’” they wrote, “but truly in the texts themselves, by virtue of the unheard-of choice made by Vatican II.”

The group also claims that the Second Vatican Council “inaugurated a new type of magisterium, hitherto unheard of in the Church, without roots in Tradition; a magisterium resolved to reconcile Catholic doctrine with liberal ideas; a magisterium imbued with the modernist ideas of subjectivism, of immanentism and of perpetual evolution.”

The document argues that “the reign of Christ is no longer the preoccupation of the ecclesiastical authorities” and that the liberal spirit in the Church is manifested “in religious liberty, ecumenism, collegiality and the new Mass.”

Because of religious liberty, they claim, the Church is being “shamefully guided by human prudence and with such self-doubt that she asks nothing other from the state than that which the Masonic lodges wish to concede to her: the common law in the midst of, and on the same level as, other religions which she no longer dares call false.”

Because of interreligious dialogue, “the truth about the one true Church is silenced,” they also say, while the spirit of collegiality “represents the destruction of authority and in consequence the ruin of Christian institutions: families, seminaries, religious institutes.”

The Lefebvrist bishops save their harshest criticism for the Novus Ordo Mass, promulgated in 1969 by Pope Paul VI. “This Mass is penetrated with an ecumenical and Protestant spirit, democratic and humanist, which empties out the sacrifice of the cross.”

The traditionalist bishops announce that, in practice, the dialogue with the Vatican is over and that, from now on, they will wait “either when Rome returns to Tradition and to the faith of all time — which would re-establish order in the Church” or “when she explicitly acknowledges our right to profess integrally the faith and to reject the errors which oppose it, with the right and the duty for us to oppose publicly the errors and the proponents of these errors, whoever they may be — which would allow the beginning of a re-establishing of order.”

The statement concludes: “We persevere in the defense of Catholic Tradition, and our hope remains entire.” Read more:

"Prepare to be shocked' Milwaukee archbishop warns

Annysa Johnson
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
June 29, 2013

In a major turning point in its nearly 3-year-old bankruptcy, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on Monday is scheduled to make public thousands of pages of documents detailing the sexual abuse of minors by priests going back decades, and what church leaders did — and did not do — in response.

The records will contain parts of 42 priests' personnel files as well as depositions of former Archbishop Timothy Dolan, now cardinal of New York; retired Archbishop Rembert Weakland; retired Bishop Richard Sklba; and now-defrocked priest Daniel Budzynski.

Most of the information, which is being released as part of an agreement in the archdiocese's bankruptcy proceedings, has never been seen publicly.

"Needless to say, there are some terrible things described in many of the documents," Archbishop Jerome Listecki said in his weekly letter to local Catholics in advance of the release. To those deciding to read the files, Listecki advised, "prepare to be shocked."

According to interviews and court records, the documents are expected to include: details about how church officials shuttled abusive priests from one parish or school to the next without divulging their histories; correspondence between the archdiocese and the Vatican, which has the final word on defrocking priests; evidence that the archdiocese under Dolan paid some priests to accept that decision without protest; and graphic accounts of sexual assault of young people.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Susan V. Kelley has acknowledged in court the disturbing nature of some of the documents. Earlier this year, commenting on the case of Franklyn Becker, a priest who molested at least 10 teenage boys beginning in the 1960s, Kelley said: "Every time I have to read his file, I'm just devastated."

Jeffrey Anderson, who represents most of the 575 men and women who filed sex abuse claims in the bankruptcy, argued for the release of the documents and called it a victory for victims and survivors.

"From the outset, what survivors have wanted most is to protect other kids," said Anderson. "And the only way you can do that is to have full disclosure of what has been done in the past."

Listecki, who was not available for this story, worried in his letter how victims would weather the public release of such information. To some, that rang hollow.

"Releasing these documents is not going to hurt us. The damage has been done. We can't suffer any more than we already have," said Charles Linneman of Sugar Grove, Ill.

Linneman was abused by Becker at the age of 14 at St. John's Parish in South Milwaukee and now serves as chairman of the bankruptcy creditors committee.

"I haven't met one survivor who wants those documents to stay sealed," he said.


The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, many of whose members have claims in the bankruptcy, has criticized the limited nature of the release and called on the archdiocese to add to its list religious order priests and other offenders who worked in the archdiocese's parishes, schools and other ministries in the 10-county area.


The archdiocese had fought the release for months — as it has in past court cases — saying victims could inadvertently be identified. But it reversed course in April after Kelley made it clear in court that she was likely to unseal at least some of the documents.

The archdiocese on Saturday issued a series of talking points and a Q&A for priests and parishes to address the issue. It makes no mention of Kelley's comments. Instead, it says, it decided to release the records "as part of our commitment to open and candid communication."

Interest in depositions

The depositions are expected to draw particular scrutiny, especially any new information connected to Dolan, who led the Milwaukee Archdiocese from 2002 to 2009. Now considered the most powerful American bishop, he was heralded at the time for his outreach to victims. But since then, allegations have been made that in anticipation of the bankruptcy filing, he directed the movement of millions of dollars into special trusts in an attempt to shield them from abuse settlements. Both Dolan and the archdiocese have denied the allegations.


The Milwaukee Archdiocese has been in bankruptcy since January 2011, becoming the eighth Catholic diocese to file for Chapter 11 protection to minimize its liability in mounting sex abuse lawsuits. Under Chapter 11, a debtor and creditors negotiate a reorganization plan that would allow the debtor to compensate creditors — primarily sex abuse victims, in these cases — and retain enough in the way of assets to continue to operate.

Victims believe the documents will prove the archdiocese defrauded them by knowingly moving abusive priests from one parish or school to the next without divulging their histories — the allegation underlying their claims to compensation.

The archdiocese denies the fraud. But if it had defrauded victims, its lawyers have argued, the clock on the six-year statute of limitations started ticking by at least 2004 when it first posted the names of 42 abusive priests on its website.

Full article at Journal Sentinel

Pope Francis' fight for transparency

Andrea Tornielli
Vatican Insider
June 29, 2013

The issues of the Vatican Bank’s management and the Holy See’s finances have resurfaced following the scandalous arrest of a prelate employed as an accountant in the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), a Vatican unit that deals with property owned by the Holy See. Pope Francis’ decision three days ago to set up a surprise commission of inquiry into the Vatican bank’s activities can now be understood in a different light. The decision shows Francis does not intend to blindly believe the words of reassurance addressed to him after the election.

The prosecutors will verify the extent of Nunzio Scarano’s involvement in an alleged money-laundering operation. 600 thousand Euros in cash are said to have left one of Mgr. Scarano’s two IOR bank accounts in 2009. The prelate is under investigation by prosecutors in his native city of Salerno, southern Italy and now, prosecutors in Rome have ordered his arrest, after accusing him of organising a daring operation to smuggle twenty million Euros into Italy, on board a jet from Switzerland. Holy See authorities have said they will cooperate fully with investigators. Prosecutors described how the prelate transferred huge sums of money with complete nonchalance: the Vatican Financial Information Authority which monitors Vatican finances had been keeping track of the cash transfers made from Mgr. Scarano’s accounts but the decision to suspend him from his position was taken after the findings of the inquiry carried out by the Italian prosecutors.

In 2010 Pope Benedict XVI called the Church to a new path of transparency, to bring the IOR and all Holy See institutions in line with international anti-money laundering standards. A path that ended up being filled with obstacles. It is evidently impossible to boil everything that is going on down to a number of small isolated cases, glossing the situation over with a series of operations that give a good image of the IOR, restoring public credibility.

There is no doubt that the Institute for Works of Religion (IOR) has done and continues to do a great job in supporting numerous Church bodies in poor countries, even though this positive aspect of Church history always goes unnoticed. But what is also clear is that a number of problems to do with management, staff and attitude have accumulated. Anti-money laundering and transparency regulations need people to actually implement them to ensure that some over-confident IOR account holders doesn’t start thinking illicit actions will go unpunished.

Only those who weren’t listening or who pretended not to listen to the messages Pope’ Francis has been repeatedly sending out in the first months of his pontificate could have thought that the management of the Vatican’s finances could go on unchanged. The phrases used by Francis: “St. Peter didn’t have a bank account” and “the IOR is necessary but only to a certain extent” were not just said for effect. Bergoglio’s is not just a falsely rigid approach. The Pope has not used the media to save the face of the institution.

The quiet strength of his approach lies in his belief that even in situations like these, what comes through is nature of the Church itself and the adequacy of its actions. The Church must now finish what Francis’ predecessor started, “in order to allow the Gospel’s principles to permeate into economic and financial activities.”

Friday, June 28, 2013

Vatican bank investigation snares bishop

Eric J. Lyman
USA Today
June 28, 2013

ROME — Italian police on Friday arrested a senior Vatican bank official and two other men in connection with suspicion of financial fraud connected with the Vatican's Institute of Religious Works in what is likely the most high-profile money-laundering bust related to the Holy See.

The arrest of Nunzio Scarano, identified in the Italian press as a bishop from Salerno, near Naples, comes just two days after Pope Francis ordered a wide-ranging probe into the internal activities of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See — best known as the Vatican's bank — after a series of scandals.

Scarano, who was arrested along with former intelligence officer Giovanni Maria Zito and financial broker Giovanni Carinzo, has reportedly been under investigation for weeks, after his name was connected to a series of suspicious transactions at the Vatican bank.

According to investigators, Scarano paid Zito €400,000 ($520,000) to illegally transport €20 million ($26 million) in cash from Switzerland to Italy. That incident was said to involve the use of an Italian government plane.

"I can't speak about the specific merits of this case but there's no doubt about corruption inside the Holy See," said Fr. Alistair Sear, church historian. "This is not the end of things. It's just a start."

Vatican press officials said they have no immediate comment on the developments, but Scarano had been "temporarily suspended" from his job at the Vatican bank earlier in the week.

"If these people are guilty then it's good for this to happen," said restaurant worker Anna Maria Torlona, 33. "I have faith the pope will do the right thing and get the right people in the right jobs."

The pontiff on Wednesday named a five-person commission to investigate the Vatican bank's administrative structure and activities in order to "allow for a better harmonization with the universal mission of the Apostolic See," according to a Vatican statement.

There were two Americans named to the commission: Msgr. Peter Wells, an official in the Vatican's foreign ministry, and Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard Law professor and the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican under former President George W. Bush.

Earlier, on June 15, Francis filled key vacancies within the Vatican bank with trusted associates, a move many saw as the start of the first significant reform initiative of his papacy.

Francis, a native of Argentina, became the first non-European pope since the early centuries of the church on March 13. Vatican experts said at the time that his status as an outsider would give him an upper hand in reforming some of the Vatican's most entrenched institutions.

"Whenever I hear about cases like this I want to know where does the money come from? What kind of influence is it supposed to buy?" said Christelle Celerier, 41, who works in a school in Rome. "I hope the new pope continues to have the courage to confront these serious problems."

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Archbishop Meyers fibs

Mark Silk
Spiritual Politics
June 27, 2013

After maintaining radio silence for a month, Archbishop Myers of Newark made another effort at self-exoneration this week in a Q. and A. with the National Catholic Register. To say that his A’s strain credulity would be an understatement.

Asked whether by returning Rev. Michael Fugee to ministry he had violated the U.S. bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children’s “zero tolerance” policy for all priests with credible accusations of clergy abuse, Myers said, “The memorandum of understanding worked out with the prosecutor’s office said he could function as a priest, but not with minors in an unsupervised capacity.”

That’s not the case. The memorandum makes clear that Fugee was not to minister to minors, period.

Myers continued: “The assignments I gave him were intended to increase supervision. He was in the chancery eight hours a day, and he was working with another priest to identify places where priests could participate in retreats. In that role, he had no contact with children.”

That’s far from the whole truth. Myers fails to mention that he also assigned Fugee to serve as a chaplain at St. Michael’s Medical Center without informing hospital administrators of the legal restrictions on him.

In his final answer, Myers said he didn’t think he would again “enter into an agreement with a civil authority that gives the supervisory function to the archdiocese. We would not enter into a memorandum of understanding that places a burden on the Church. The state has more resources. Our advice would be to tell the priest, ‘Go back for a second trial and clear your name.’”

In fact, however, the memorandum doesn’t give the archdiocese a supervisory function. It simply establishes restrictions on what Fugee could be assigned to do. The burden on Myers is that he failed to abide by the restrictions.

Cardinal Lehmann questions Benedict XVI's liturgical changes

The Tablet (UK)
June 27, 2013

Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz has criticised two major liturgical changes introduced by Pope Benedict XVI.

The former president of the German bishops' conference said that he did not think the co-existence of the old-rite liturgy alongside the new was a good idea, and that the proposed change in the German Missal from saying Christ died "for all" to "for many" was a sign of Rome trying to appease traditionalists.

He complained there were now more Tridentine Masses on offer than there was demand for and questioned the motives of fans of the old-rite Mass. He said enthusiasm for the Tridentine Mass seemed to have "a lot to do with prestige".

Lehmann also questioned why Rome was changing the translation of pro multis to "for many", noting that Pope Benedict had said that both translations were legitimate.

Pell: The Pope does not want the Vatican to be seen as a renaissance court

Gerard O'Connel
Vatican Insider
June 27, 2013

The cardinal archbishop of Sydney, George Pell, in Rome for various meetings in the Vatican, granted me this interview on June 24, in which he shared his impressions on Pope Francis’s first 100 days in office and discussed the reform of the Roman Curia.

“We’ve got a different type of Pope” who is “doing very well”, he said. But he also expressed some concern for the pope’s health because of “the cracking pace” at which he has begun his work.

Pell, one of the Pope’s eight cardinal advisors said he envisages “a major re-configuration” of the Roman Curia and hopes a better way can be set up to select people for positions at all levels in it.

Francis has been pope for 100 days. What are the two or three things that stand out in your mind from this period?

I think his recent encounter with the Harley Davidson riders was emblematic. Thousands of them came on these enormous motorbikes on Sunday morning to get a blessing from Francis. By all accounts, the Pope was perfectly at home with them, and blessed them. They gave him two big motorbikes which he’s going to sell off and give the proceeds to the poor.

I think that’s emblematic that we’ve got a different type of a pope. He’s a pope who very much understands the importance of symbols, and he’s inclined to talk through stories and parables.

He took the name of Francis. St Francis of Assisi was distinguished for many things, including one saying that’s allegedly come from him where he tells his brothers: “Preach (the Gospel) by deeds and, if necessary use words”. Now I think the Holy Father very much understands that, and so his style of teaching is quite different from that of Pope Benedict. Somebody said Benedict was a great teacher for intellectuals, bishops and priests, but Francis is much more immediate and direct, and for ordinary people. Then again, in another symbolic act, he rode in the bus with the other bishops after giving his first blessing to the people after his election. And, of course, he has decided to live in Santa Marta.

What do you make of his decision to stay at Santa Marta?

I think it’s obviously the action of a man who likes company. It’s very much the action of a Pope who does not want to be isolated and, if I could venture an hypothesis, I suspect it’s the action of a man who doesn’t want to be controlled. I’m all in favor of popes being popes.


By his commitment to a simple life, marked by poverty, Pope Francis is setting a style of how to be a priest, how to be a bishop, how to be a pope. Do you think many bishops and priests will review their own style of life in the light of his example?

There’s no doubt about it, the style of papacy, the content of the teaching, the way the Pope lives, all this influences the life of the whole Church. I think the general direction which the Holy Father is going in is very good. He certainly doesn’t want the Vatican to be seen as a Renaissance court or even an 18th century court, but rather as a place where people are serious about serving Christ and serving the people. He’s certainly not into pomp and circumstance. So to answer your question, yes, I think his example and style of life will have an effect.


Full article at Vatican Insider

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Supreme Court Decisions On Marriage: 'Tragic Day For Marriage And Our Nation,' State U.S. Bishops

Press Release
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
June 26, 2013

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Supreme Court decisions June 26 striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act and refusing to rule on the merits of a challenge to California’s Proposition 8 mark a “tragic day for marriage and our nation,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

The statement follows.

“Today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation. The Supreme Court has dealt a profound injustice to the American people by striking down in part the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The Court got it wrong. The federal government ought to respect the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, even where states fail to do so. The preservation of liberty and justice requires that all laws, federal and state, respect the truth, including the truth about marriage. It is also unfortunate that the Court did not take the opportunity to uphold California’s Proposition 8 but instead decided not to rule on the matter. The common good of all, especially our children, depends upon a society that strives to uphold the truth of marriage. Now is the time to redouble our efforts in witness to this truth. These decisions are part of a public debate of great consequence. The future of marriage and the well-being of our society hang in the balance.

“Marriage is the only institution that brings together a man and a woman for life, providing any child who comes from their union with the secure foundation of a mother and a father.

“Our culture has taken for granted for far too long what human nature, experience, common sense, and God’s wise design all confirm: the difference between a man and a woman matters, and the difference between a mom and a dad matters. While the culture has failed in many ways to be marriage-strengthening, this is no reason to give up. Now is the time to strengthen marriage, not redefine it.

“When Jesus taught about the meaning of marriage – the lifelong, exclusive union of husband and wife – he pointed back to “the beginning” of God’s creation of the human person as male and female (see Matthew 19). In the face of the customs and laws of his time, Jesus taught an unpopular truth that everyone could understand. The truth of marriage endures, and we will continue to boldly proclaim it with confidence and charity.

“Now that the Supreme Court has issued its decisions, with renewed purpose we call upon all of our leaders and the people of this good nation to stand steadfastly together in promoting and defending the unique meaning of marriage: one man, one woman, for life. We also ask for prayers as the Court’s decisions are reviewed and their implications further clarified.”

Francis takes on Vatican Bank

John L. Allen, Jr.
National Catholic Reporter
June 26, 2013

In a move that observers describe as a clear signal of a desire for greater transparency and accountability, Pope Francis on Wednesday set up a new commission to investigate the activities of the Vatican bank and to report its findings directly to him.

Among other things, observers say the move indicates that Francis intends to take a personal interest in the bank as opposed to relying on others to make decisions in his name.

The commission is not empowered to govern the bank or to implement any reform measures, but to gather information and relay it to the pope in what's described as a "timely" fashion.

On background, a source with knowledge of the commission was asked Wednesday if it reflected a stance of "trust but verify" vis-à-vis assurances from the bank's present leadership about its commitment to reform.

"What it means is trust with reluctance and verify deeply," the source said.

Observers say it's too early to know precisely what reforms might result, but it appears to suggest openness to changes that go beyond the merely cosmetic.

The Vatican on Wednesday released the text of a "chirograph," an instrument under canon law giving the commission legal force. According to the text, the broad aim of the commission is to help ensure that "the principles of the Gospel also permeate activities of an economic and financial nature."

............ See full article at National Catholic Reporter

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

(Newark) Archbishop Meyers makes public comments about Fugee case

Jeff Green
June 25, 2013

In his first interview about a scandal involving a Catholic priest arrested last month for allegedly violating an agreement with prosecutors, Newark Archbishop John J. Myers defended his actions and provided new details about the church’s decision making during the crisis.

Myers, in an interview published online Tuesday by the National Catholic Register, explained a confidential review board ruling in the decade-old sex-abuse case against the Rev. Michael Fugee and addressed new charges that Fugee violated an agreement with prosecutors by working with children throughout New Jersey.

Fugee was convicted of groping a 13-year-old boy in 2003 when he was an assistant pastor at the Church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary in Wyckoff. The conviction was overturned in 2006 due to a judicial error, but to avoid a retrial, he entered into a special rehabilitation program for first-time offenders.

Fugee also signed an agreement with the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office and the archdiocese that strictly prohibits ministering to children for as long as he remains a priest. Last month he was charged with seven counts of violating the agreement for allegedly hearing confessions of children.

Myers has been criticized for returning Fugee to the ministry in 2009, a decision he based upon a church review board that found no sexual abuse had occurred in the groping case. Myers defended that decision and expressed doubts about Fugee’s guilt in the interview with The Register’s senior editor, Joan Frawley Desmond. He specifically questioned the integrity of Fugee’s confession, noting that the priest recanted at trial and “denied wrongdoing several times” when he first talked to investigators.

“The average person is looking for a black-and-white answer, but there are cases where there are more grays than black and white,” Myers said. “That is what the court and the review board were dealing with.”

Myers said his review board led a “professional” inquiry, looking into the allegations “as if they were cops,” by conducting interviews, reading court documents and having “a lot of discussion” over a three-year period. Myers said the board did not give Fugee “a clean bill of health: He engaged in activity that was ill advised but did not rise to the level of sexual abuse.”

In recent interviews, the alleged victim, now 27, said he never heard from the review board about testifying. In court documents, he pointed to four specific incidents in which Fugee pinned him down against his will and “slowly” moved his hand over his crotch.

Myers alluded to problems with supervising priests accused of sexual abuse. When asked if he regrets his decision to return Fugee to the ministry, Myers said said it was “appropriate at the time,” but that he would never again enter an agreement with law enforcement that would require supervision.

“We would not enter into a memorandum of understanding that places a burden on the Church,” Myers said. “The state has more resources. Our advice would be to tell the priest, ‘Go back for a second trial and clear your name.’”


full article at NorthJersey

Boston Cardinal O'Malley bans touring Austrian priest from parish

Kate Simmons
National Catholic Reporter
June 24, 2013

The first American speaking tour of a reform-minded Austrian priest has hit its first snag. Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley says Fr. Helmut Schüller can't speak on archdiocesan property, forcing a rescheduling of the Boston leg of his 15-city tour, which begins July 15.

Last week, Boston Auxiliary Bishop Walter Edyvean called St. Susanna Parish -- Schüller's scheduled speaking stop for July 17 -- to inform them that O'Malley had ruled that "Father Schüller could not speak at any Catholic parish because he espouses beliefs that are contrary to the teachings of the Catholic church," according to parish Deacon Larry Bloom.

Schüller's talk will be moved to the First Church of Dedham, a Unitarian Universalist church down the street, Bloom wrote in an email to NCR Monday.

St. Susanna tends to attract parishioners with a lot of questions, so "we often have speakers who represent various, sometimes controversial, points of view," wrote Bloom, who serves as director of adult faith formation for the parish.

"This, however, is the first time in my eleven years at the parish that we have actually been told we could not allow someone to speak at the parish," Bloom wrote. "We did not expect that the talk on parish property would be prohibited, but we were not shocked and proceeded calmly to complete a resolution."

In a statement released Monday, organizers of Schüller's speaking tour, titled "The Catholic Tipping Point," called O'Malley's decision "distressing."

"Cardinal O'Malley's action is particularly distressing since it is taken by one of the eight cardinals appointed to help reform Church governance," they said in the statement. "This attempt to suppress these long overdue discussions is a disservice to Christ's body."

The tour, sponsored by 12 progressive Catholic organizations, will begin in New York City and travel across the country to California and Seattle, ending Aug. 7 back in Long Island, N.Y

Sunday, June 23, 2013

As church infrastructure shrinks, rebellious Austrian priest to tour US

Jason Berry
Global Postx
June 22, 2013

The shortage of Catholic priests is an economic drama playing out across major countries to a yawn by the news media.

In the United States, 20 percent of parishes have no priests. Since 1995, bishops have sold more than 1,700 churches – on average, that’s a church shuttered once a week for 18 years — down-sizing a religious infrastructure that had grown steadily between the end of the Civil War and the 1969 voyage that put Americans on the moon.

The pastor is the fundraiser at every parish. Healthy parishes offer a range of services, from food pantries to therapeutic counseling, in addition to Mass, baptisms, weddings and funerals. Most of the non-sacramental work is done by lay people because of a growing personnel crisis.

The budget that lay staff uses to run offices and social outreach depends on the pastor’s appeal to the flock. Without a pastor, parishes struggle to pay for themselves.

For every 100 priests who retire, only 30 men are ordained, according to Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research on the Apostolate.

In 2006 the US had one priest for every 1,510 Catholics. That’s more than Mexico, which has a majority Catholic population, yet only one priest for every 6,276 Catholics.

The most potent protest over the root problem — mandatory celibacy that bars a married clergy — has come from Austria, which has only 3,800 priests, but a lightning rod in Helmut Schüller, an otherwise mild-mannered priest who saw things he didn’t like, and spoke out.

Once the vicar-general, or top assistant, to Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, in 2011 the 64-year old Schüller promoted an “Appeal to Disobedience”, endorsing communion for divorced Catholics as one symbolic gesture in calling for the church to embrace a program of realistic change.

In response, Pope Benedict had Schüller stripped of his status as monsignor.

Schüller, still a priest, has a popular support base for his reform agenda, which has drawn interest in the United States, where he embarks on a 15-city speaking tour on July 16. His tour is sponsored by a consortium of reform groups under the rubric Catholic Tipping Point, and he will speak in Chicago, Cleveland, San Diego, Los Angeles, Portland, Cincinnati, New York, among other stops and speak July 22 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

Most of these dioceses have been rattled by parish closings, financial stress or fall out from litigation over clergy sex abuse. San Diego and Portland weathered draining bankruptcy proceedings before agreeing to large settlements.

The pinch caused by the shrinking numbers of priests is becoming a front-burner Catholic issue.

“We’re closing parishes rather than opening ordination,” Sister Christine Schenk, a founder of the Cleveland-based FutureChurch, told GlobalPost. “The Austrian priests' initiative goes to the heart of governance in the church, involving lay leaders, and the opening of ordination so we have both married and women.”

Boston and Detroit have seen dozens of churches shut and sold over protesting parishioners, as bishops guided restructuring plans. Soup kitchens, services to homeless, food pantries and other threads in the church-run social safety net dissolve when parishes disappear. The economic forces behind the closures vary.

In Boston, clergy abuse settlements took a huge toll. Detroit, a moribund city since white flight to suburbs after the race riots of the 1960s, is an archdiocese saddled with a heavy white elephant. Cardinal Adam Maida built a cultural center named for John Paul II in Washington, DC, but failed to generate support of other dioceses. The center was recently sold at a huge loss. In both Detroit and in Boston, closed churches were sold to stanch operating deficits.

“The church is built on the congregation,” Father Schüller told the New York Times in 2011. “You can’t reduce the churchgoer to a consumer, receiving a service.”

The Vatican’s latest response to the Austrian priests’ initiative came when Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig, prefect of the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, said that remarried divorcees can never justify receiving communion at mass because marriage is “a divine norm...not at the church’s disposal to alter.”

But Schüller’s group has growing popularity, as one outgrowth of a grassroots protest against the Vatican sparked in 1995 when Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër, the archbishop of Vienna, resigned amid accusations that he sexually abused youths in a Benedictine monastery years earlier. Groër denied the accusations; Austrian bishops rallied around him, only to change their mind as a chorus of victims emerged. Schönborn eventually spoke out against Groër, but failed to persuade Pope John Paul II to publicly acknowledge Groër’s wrongdoing. In 1998, when John Paul visited Austria, maintaining his silence on Groër, 500,000 Austrian Catholics had joined the We Are Church movement.

“They want qualified laity to be able to give sermons and believe that churches should have a stronger local presence, rather than relying on sermons from traveling ‘celebrity’ priests,” the German newsweekly Der Spiegel reported last year of Schüller’s group. “The movement has its roots in Austria, where it counts more than 400 priests and deacons as members. But it is gaining ground across Europe with sympathetic clergy in France, Ireland and other countries expressing support.”

“The average age of the US priest is 63,” said Sister Schenk. “In 1970 it was 45. We know in next ten years a cataclycsm will happen because of priest availability without a fundamental change.”

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The war between liberation theology and Rome is over

[The times, they are a-changin' - Bob Dylan]

Gianni Valente
Vatican Insider
June 21, 2013

“The Latin American ecclesial and theological movement known as “Liberation Theology”, which spread to other parts of the world after the Second Vatican Council, should in my opinion be included among the most important currents in 20th century Catholic theology.” This authoritative and glorifying historical evaluation of Liberation Theology did not just come from some ancient South American theologian who is out of touch wit the times. The above statement was made by Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which Ratzinger headed in the 1980’s, after John Paul I appointed him to the post. The Prefect gave two instructions, warning against pastoral and doctrinal deviations from Latin American theological currents of thought.

This decisive comment about the Liberation Theology movement is not just some witty remark that happened to escape the mouth of the current custodian of Catholic orthodoxy. The same balanced opinion pervades the densely written pages of “On the Side of the Poor. The Theology of Liberation”, a collection of essays co-written with liberation theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez and published in Germany in 2004. Gutiérrez invented the formula for defining the Liberation Theology movement, whose actions were – for a long time – closely scrutinised by the Ratzinger-led Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The movement was not criticised once during this time.

Today the book seems to wave goodbye in a way to the theological wars of the past and the hostility that flash up now and again, to cause alarm on purpose.

The book put an official seal on a common path the two had followed for many years. Müller never hid his closeness to Gustavo Gutiérrez, whom he met in Lima in 1988, during a study seminar. During the ceremony for the honorary degree which the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru granted to Müller in 2008, the then bishop of Regensburg defined the theological thought of his master and Peruvian friend as fully orthodox. In the months before Müller’s nomination as head of the dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith, some claimed his closeness to Gutiérrez proved he was not suited to the role previously held by Cardinal Ratzinger (24 long years).


The arrival of the Catholic Church’s first Latin American Pope made it possible to look at those years and experience without being conditioned by the controversies that raged at the time. Without the ritualism of the false mea culpas and superficial changes, it is easier today to see that the hostility shown by certain sections of the Church towards the Liberation Theology movement was politically motivated and did not really stem from a desire to preserve and spread the faith of the apostles. Those who paid the price were the theologians and pastors who were completely immersed in the evangelical faith of their people. They either ended up in the mince or faded into the shadows. For a long time, the hostility shown towards the Liberation Theology movement was invaluable factor in helping some climb the ecclesiastical career ladder.


full article at the Vatican Insider

Friday, June 21, 2013

Is Ireland trying to throw off the shackles of the Catholic church?

John Spain
Irish Central
June 21, 2013

Is Ireland still a Catholic country?

It's an interesting and timely question, given the watershed speech in the Dail (Parliament) last week by the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny and the much-quoted reference he made to not being a Catholic taoiseach.

The reference came during a debate on the government's proposed abortion legislation. The quote got so much coverage -- some of it inaccurate -- it's worth repeating exactly what he said:

"I am proud to stand here as a public representative, as a taoiseach who happens to be a Catholic, but not as a Catholic taoiseach."

To an outsider, it might seem like a statement of the obvious. We are, after all, a republic. We are governed by the people, not by any church. A person's religion, even if that person is the taoiseach, should be separate from their politics.

But we have always been a peculiar kind of Republic. Our Constitution, introduced by de Valera in 1937, specifically gave the Catholic Church a special and influential place in the formation of Irish laws and Irish society. And although that special position has now been withdrawn, the resonance here of what used to be called Rome Rule lives on.

So when Kenny states the obvious, as he did last week, it still feels like some kind of breakthrough. And it is still welcome for that very reason.

But the fact that it is still characterized in the Irish media as a courageous stance is probably more revealing of us than we realize. You would not hear Hollande saying something like that in France, for example, even though it's still a substantially Catholic country (note the recent huge opposition to gay marriage there, for example).

But to be fair to Kenny, he is marking out a line in the sand that none of his predecessors was prepared to lay down. It's a long way from the crawling behavior of the early generation of our leaders like de Valera, who were always sinking to their knees to kiss the rings of the bishops.

De Valera referred most of his legislative proposals to the church, usually the malign figure of Archbishop McQuaid, then head of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

To be fair to de Valera, he was no different than all the politicians of his generation, most of whom would not dream of ignoring the "advice" of the church on proposed legislation and how to run the country.

This fear of the church bedeviled our politics until very recently. When the “rebel” Charlie Haughey finally introduced contraception, it was only available to married couples on prescription!

Even the liberalizing Fine Gael Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald caved in to the bishops and held the pro-life referendum which gave constitutional equality to the life of a mother and that of a fetus, and which got us into the mess on abortion that we are still trying to disentangle.

The influence and power of the church pervaded all levels of Irish society for decades, in fact for nearly all of the life of the state since its formation in the 1920s. You don't have to be as old as me to remember what it felt like.

In rural Ireland where I grew up nothing -- and I mean nothing -- was done without the tacit approval of the local priest. Holding a dance or running a club or doing virtually anything that brought people, especially young people, together required the imprimatur in advance.

The image of the local priest out at night with his flashlight and blackthorn stick patrolling the laneways after dances in search of canoodling couples may now be seen as a joke, but it was all too real in the Ireland of the fifties and sixties and even the seventies.

In retrospect, it seems odd that so few people ever stood up to this intimidation. But then how could they, when there was no leadership from the top.

Kenny's line in the sand statement about not being a Catholic taoiseach should be contrasted with what another Fine Gael taoiseach, John A. Costello, told the Dail back in the 1950s: "I am an Irishman second, I am a Catholic first, and I accept without qualification the teaching of the hierarchy and the church to which I belong."

So yes, we were a Catholic country, ruled as much by Rome as by our parliament in Dublin. The question is, are we still one?

The answer probably is no, but it is a very qualified no in spite of Kenny's statement. People are now more determined to make up their own minds on issues, rather than be told how to think by the church.

The recent Irish Times poll showing huge approval for the government's proposals on abortion demonstrates that, despite fierce opposition by the church leaders and the usual hysteria from “pro-life” extremists.


Overall, the Catholic Church here appears to be fighting a losing battle. With its credibility totally undermined by the child abuse scandals and a catastrophic fall in weekly church attendance, the battle to keep Ireland as a Catholic country is being lost.

But the last people to realize this seems to be the Catholic bishops themselves who are still behaving and issuing diktats as though nothing has changed.

And the extremist Catholic campaigners in the “pro-life” lobby are making things worse for them by alienating the vast majority of people, including people who regard themselves as Catholic, by heckling the Taoiseach and sending bloody plastic fetuses to other politicians, and even issuing death threats.

The irony of all this is that Kenny is a practicing Catholic and a man who takes his religion very seriously. Yet he is the one who has been brave enough to make an explicit statement in the Dail making clear the final disconnection of church and state in Ireland.

It's about time for us.

. full article at Irish Central

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Francis has brought a "spring time" for the church in Asia

Gerard O'Connell
National Catholic Reporter
June 20, 2013

In Rome for a meeting of the post-synodal council, the Cardinal Archbishop of Mumbai, Oswald Gracias, talked to me about his ‘surprise’ at being chosen to be one of the Pope’s advisors, and how he envisages that role. He also identified some of the key issues that he thinks need to be addressed in the Church today.

But he began this exclusive interview by talking about the great enthusiasm Pope Francis is sparking in India, among both Catholics and non-Catholics, and in other parts of Asia.

Q. Francis has been pope for 100 days, what impact is he having in India and, more generally, in Asia?

A. Very, very positive! Very positive, in the sense that here’s a country with a lot of poverty also while there’s been great progress, and he’s struck a cord immediately with his consistent concern for the poor, the marginalized, and also telling the Church to be for the poor. India’s Catholics have been very impressed, but also the general populace who are not Catholic, they have also been very impressed by the Pope, by his remarks. He’s getting lots of publicity, everything he says is covered by the secular press, and his pictures appear very often in our papers.

It’s a big blessing for the Church. It seems like a spring time for the Church. He has sparked an atmosphere of joy, enthusiasm and excitement. There’s life, vitality and enthusiasm for the Church now. People say this is the Church that I like to belong to. People have gone to confession and mass because of the inspiration that Pope Francis has given.

Q. So the impact is strong in India, but what about in the rest of Asia?

A. I don’t have a lot of feedback as yet, but I’ve met some bishops from other countries, from Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Cardinal Tagle from the Philippines, all have spoken very, very favorably of the Holy Father’s impact on their countries.

Q. He has appointed you to this group of 8 cardinals who are to be his top advisors. What was your reaction when you found out?

A. I was very, very surprised when I received the call from the Secretary of State that the Holy Father wanted me on this group of eight people to advise him. I said why me? I must say I almost felt certainly unworthy and humbled, but I also realized it is a tremendous responsibility and I felt like running away and saying get somebody else to advise you. But I realize it is something crucial, vital and very responsible.


Q. How do you see the role of this group of 8?

A. I don’t know really. I think the group will make a difference if he wants it to make a difference. I’ve heard him so often refer to this group in recent times that my impression is that he is expecting a lot from us. It appears to me that we are a little like the group of consulters that a Jesuit provincial has; and which he appoints. These consulters are there to help him in his different decisions, and he calls on them whenever he needs. I think it’s something of that sort; it’s the Ignatian method. It has proved very successful for the Jesuit provincials, and I cannot see why it can’t also prove successful for the Pope.

Q. Many see the group of eight as a new form of collegiality.

A. Yes, it is a form of collegiality. In the General Congregations before the conclave, he will have heard the cardinals speak, and everybody giving their perceptions of what the Pope should be, it’s humanly impossible for one person to carry such a heavy burden given the demands of the papacy today, and the variety of situations, problems and challenges, it was essential that he would have a group such as this. But how exactly he chooses to call on this group of advisors will depend on him. This is what he has decided is the best for the Church. It is truly a bold and innovative step. And he has chosen all of the members of the group from the pastoral field, with one exception, so they can tell him what is happening out there

These are clearly people he has confidence in. They are also people who will tell him what the Church needs, what is best for the Church. He will be inspired spiritually, of course, but he needs assistance, assurance, the refinement of ideas, and a body on which he can bounce off his different plans.


Q. In his written speech, Pope Francis envisages “further developments” in the synod of bishops “to foster even more dialogue and collaboration between the bishops, and between them and the Bishop of Rome”.

A. I think this is again something we should reflect on. The synod of bishops is now almost fifty years old, so it’s time perhaps to reflect, to evaluate, to see what it has achieved and to ask how it can be more effective. As I see it, the Second Vatican Council wanted the synod to be a kind of continuation of that Council, an instrument to keep up the spirit of the Council and the method of the Council, with its collegiality and so on.


Q. I take it you are referring to the question of the divorced and re-married?

A. Yes, the question of the divorced and re-married, and how it is to be handled. And what is the pastoral care here? It is definitely an issue in certain countries today, more than in India, where it is not so much yet although there are already cases in India too.

I’m happy that the Pope is thinking about it, that he is not saying ‘this is a closed matter’. I was pleasantly surprised when he mentioned that. It’s a pastoral problem which we cannot push aside. There are human lives involved, the spirituality of these people is involved, their faith, their faith life is involved, their ecclesial life. So the question is: How do we handle this? How would Our Lord handle it?

Q. Are there other issues like this that you would like to see addressed in these years?

A. I think the whole issue of collegiality, and the Primacy. I think it is important today that there is a certain amount of free-flow between the center and the particular Churches. I think things have got a little bit over-centralized. So it is necessary to think about how the Church could be more effective, how the Church could be Church.

Pope John Paul II, in the encyclical on ecumenism, specifically asked for input on how the primacy might be exercised in a different way. Maybe this is the time for us to touch that question. Maybe we won’t find a solution, but it is necessary to begin thinking about it. It would help ecumenism, but I also think it would help the inner structure of the Church.

full article at National Catholic Reporter

What Catholics know about power

Nicole Sotelo
National Catholic Reporter
June 20, 2013

The story goes that it was a June storm that sparked Ben Franklin to try something new: to toss a kite into the air attached to a key below. If lightning really was electricity, the key would hold a spark. Ben reached out his hand and, indeed, the key held energy -- energy that now powers cities and lights up entire populations. This summer is no different.

Another man is testing the electricity of an idea. His name is Fr. Helmut Schüller. He has a spark in his eyes and the attention of Catholics in Europe, including the Vatican. As a priest of Austria, he has seen the stark realities of the priest shortage and the desire by Catholics for more equal participation. He knows the church needs to change and has decided to do something about it.

Fr. Helmut helped initiate the Austrian Priests' Initiative, which is organizing priests to resist exclusionary church policies and create churches where power is shared and Catholics participate equally, no matter one's gender, marital status or sexual orientation.

These Austrian priests are not alone. Priests are coming together in places like Ireland, India and Australia to look at critical issues facing the church and to work with local Catholics on solutions. In the United States, the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests will convene next week and, later this summer, Fr. Helmut is making his first U.S. tour, traveling to 15 cities from New York to Los Angeles.

More and more, Catholic officials like Fr. Helmut are recognizing the church needs to engage everyone equally, not only because it is the right thing to do but because the church is suffering without the presence and contribution of those who have traditionally been excluded. To name just a handful of recent moments:

A few weeks ago, an archbishop and cardinal in Belgium voiced support for civil unions for gay couples, and a group of sisters and priests in the United States convened to advocate for abuse survivors.

Last month, Cardinal João Braz de Aviz from Brazil, leader of the Vatican's Congregation for Religious, told a meeting of women religious superiors he was not consulted on the mandate against the Leadership Conference of Women Religious and finally had the courage to share the story. He proclaimed that authority in the church needed to be "revisioned." In April, the chair of Germany's Bishops' Conference, Archbishop of Freiburg Robert Zollitsch, called for women deacons. In June 2011, Cardinal José da Cruz Policarpo of Portugal said there was no fundamental obstacle to women's ordination. These church officials aren't saying anything that hasn't been said before. What is striking is the increasing incidence of clerics willing to speak for change that would involve creating a church of accountability and shared power. And when one cleric speaks up about these issues, it seems to encourage others to speak out, as well. A good idea is, indeed, electric.

And an idea can actually change the way we live. Scientists now believe Ben Franklin's written description of the kite experiment may have been simply that: a written description, a theory. Ultimately, his idea that pointed toward what he believed not only later proved true, but led to other discoveries that now empower millions through the use of electricity.

Perhaps the same is true with these church officials: They are simply pointing toward what most Catholics already believe, that a church of equals is within our grasp if only we have the courage to live it and create a church where power is shared.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Pope Francis at 100 days: voices from Europe

Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB
Pray Tell
June 18, 2013

In Italy L’Adige writes,

A hundred days from the white smoke on that rainy evening of March 13th, there is no sign of letup of the ‘honeymoon’ between Pope Francis and the growing masses of the faithful. The words of gestures of a pope who cleared the field of papal trappings and heavy protocol to make way for the papacy’s pastoral nature as ‘bishop of Rome,’ close to the people, especially close to the poor and weak, are fascinating not only to believers, but also to nonbelievers from the whole world.

In France, Le Figaro wonders when the “papamania” will let up:

The gulf between the Catholic Church and public opinion seems to be reduced, thanks to a very popular and unconventional pope. Two objective indicators show the rapprochement: the number of people at Wednesday people audiences has nearly quadrupled. From an average of 25,000 people, the attendance approaches 100,000 people. And the new crowds that stream into St. Peter’s Square are not primarily the pious, nor the ‘Catholic” in the strict sense, but those curious to see the man in white up close. To the point of sometimes being magnetized by his charism of simplicity. The second measurable index: the Twitter account of the pope, launched by Benedict XVI with two million subscribers, has more than tripled. The paper notes that, with Francis’ avoidance of the term ‘pope’ in favor of ‘bishop of Rome’ and his decision not to live in the official papal apartments, some are worried about a ‘desecration of the papal office.’

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna says, “I think that this fresh spirit, the good humor and also the challenge from Pope Francis, is good for all of us. In an unbelievable way, he knows how to bring together the radicality of Christianity with the joy of Christianity.” He said to Kathweb, “Sometimes I have the impression that we’re so grumpy, grim, and joyless. We ought to look more redeemed.” Schönborn spoke of a fundamentally entirely new positive attitude in the Church and in Austria in general: “If the horse-drawn carriage drivers in Cathedral Square are an indication of the opinion of people in our country, then this pope is much beloved.”

In the Bavarian Sonntagsblatt (“Sunday Paper”), Tilmann Kleinjung writes that “after only 100 days in office, this new pope has already made many people happy.” He writes:

Hardly a wonder that so many people want to approach this gregarious pope, who breaks down the barriers between himself and the world and makes a campaign out of modesty… But one cannot reduce him to questions of style anymore, as happened in the first days after his election. His modestly, demonstratively put on display, is a clear call to all bishops, priests, and faithful to do the same as him. His lived out modeling may well effect more than any wordy and brilliant encyclical…

Whoever wishes to understand Francis must understand his gestures: the foot-washing in the youth detention center on Holy Thursday, the morning Masses in the guesthouse at which he gradually wishes to get to know every Vatican colleague, or the fact that the pope only speaks of himself as “Bishop of Rome.”

Kleinjung sees this manner of self-address as a strong ecumenical impulse. He notes that the president of the council of the Evangelical (i.e. Protestant) Church in Germany, Nikolaus Schneider, positively raved about the pope after meeting him. “He has reduced the overpowering aspect of the office of pope,” he said. He hopes that with this pope, ecumenism can be less rationalistic and inhibited and become a passion of the heart.

Jörg Bremer notes in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that St. Peter’s Square is packed at every general audience: Noticeably many Italians want to experience the new pope. Some bring a zucchetto, the white skullcap, and hope that Francis will come to them when he goes into the crowd. Then they would exchange the new one for the old one, as often happens. ‘Francis has developed a cult character,’ some say; he certainly speaks to young and old, rich and poor. In this it seems that his open and hearty manner is more important than his words. With him at has again become easier for church institutions like Cor Unum to raise money. In February, [Archbishop Gerhard] Müller [prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith] still spoke of a ‘pogrom disposition’ against the church. But with Francis, the ‘powers that wish to discredit the church have not disappeared, but they are less aggressive and are waiting to see.’

Archbishop Müller speaks about liturgy: “The liturgy is solemn and has splendor and beauty, but it shouldn’t degenerate into pageantry,” and he speaks of a “noble, quite simplicity.” Churchgoers “deserve that the priest not show up in stained vestments and the flowers on the altar not be dried up, but simplicity is good.”

Phillipines reproductive health law tests power of Catholic church as it lobbies supreme court

Tom Hundly
Washington Post
June 17, 2013

MANILA — In what is expected to mark a pivotal moment in this rapidly developing but still impoverished nation, the Supreme Court of the Philippines will weigh next month the constitutionality of a new reproductive-health law that pits the entrenched power of the Roman Catholic establishment against a rising tide of modernization and economic aspiration.

The measure, which was signed into law in December after a bitter 14-year battle between women’s rights advocates and Catholic bishops, would fund access to contraceptives for the nation’s poorest women. The key question before the court is whether it violates a 1987 constitutional guarantee of protection for “the life of the unborn from conception.”

Catholic bishops in this profoundly Catholic country of 96 million argue that any form of contraception other than Vatican-approved “natural” methods or abstinence is tantamount to abortion. They also warn that the RH bill, as it is called here, is the first step down a slippery slope that will inevitably lead to divorce and the legalization of abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage.

The law has been backed by a loose alliance of women’s groups, medical professionals, academics, business leaders, celebrities and a few progressive Catholic organizations. It also received key support from President Benigno Aquino III, who ignored threats of excommunication to actively campaign for its approval.

Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, a vice chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said that Aquino’s support for the RH bill was a declaration of “open war” on the church.

It is not a war the bishops intend to lose. Long accustomed to a position of unquestioned power and privilege in the Philippines, the church hierarchy fears that its moral authority is eroding in the face of dynamic economic growth — the Philippines has just replaced China as the fastest-growing economy in the region — coupled with the deepening frustration of the many millions who remain mired in poverty.

Although 80 percent of the population here identifies itself as Catholic, polls have consistently indicated that slightly more than 70 percent support the reproductive-health law.

“For the Catholic Church here and for the Vatican, this is a real struggle. This is a country they don’t want to lose. We are the last bastion of Catholicism in the Old World colonies,” said Sylvia Estrada-Claudio, director of the University of the Philippines Center for Women’s Studies and a longtime activist for reproductive health.


Framing the issue

Both sides are now gearing up for next month’s Supreme Court showdown.

The bishops’ conference has been openly lobbying some of the Supreme Court’s 15 justices, 11 of whom were appointed by Aquino’s predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, a staunch supporter of the church’s position on contraception.

“We could lose it. We’re hopeful that we won’t, but we are not sure,” said Estrada-Claudio, the reproductive-health activist.

Elizabeth Pangalangan, a Harvard-trained lawyer and professor at the University of the Philippines Law Center who will be arguing in favor of the bill, said the biggest issue is whether the law violates the right-to-life protection in the constitution.

“What is prevented by the constitution is abortion,” she said. “To win, we will have to stress the fact that we are against abortion.”

In addition to providing modern contraceptives to poor women, the law mandates sex education in public schools and would require hospitals to provide post-abortion care — yet another sensitive subject in the Philippines.

Despite the blanket ban on abortion, it is estimated that 475,000 to 600,000 women undergo illegal and often unsafe abortions in the country each year and that about 90,000 of these women are later hospitalized for post-abortion complications. About 1,000 Filipino women die each year from botched abortions, according to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, a New York think tank that supports access to contraceptives and legal abortion.

The Philippines has one of the highest birthrates in Southeast Asia, and surveys indicate that 54 percent of the pregnancies that occur each year are unintended or unwanted. The vast majority of those pregnancies occur among poor women with little or no access to modern contraceptives.

Supporters of the law argue that providing poor families better access to contraceptives would substantially lower the birthrate and also reduce abortions.

The church, in addition to its objections on theological grounds, contends that easy access to contraceptives would only lead to promiscuity among the young.

full article at Washington Post

Philadelphia archdiocese grappling with pensions for clergy

John P. Martin
Philadelphia Inquirer
June 17, 2013

A pension fund for priests cited as a priority in a $200 million fund-raising campaign by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has fallen precariously short of money, and church officials want parishes and retired clergy to help cover the shortfall.

In meetings this spring, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput told priests the plan had been underfunded, poorly managed, and was spent on rising health-care costs for clergy, according to three priests who attended or were briefed on the talks. Chaput said the fund needed $90 million to be solvent but had less than $4.5 million, they said.

Clergy living at the archdiocese's Delaware County retirement villa and other church-owned facilities are expected to contribute 40 percent of their pensions to the archdiocese, the priests said. And parishes' annual assessments to the pension fund will rise from $6,700 to about $9,300 per priest, they said.

The changes come two years after the archdiocese ended a fund-raising campaign that made shoring up the priests' pension plan one of its goals.

Kenneth Gavin, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said the policy requiring priests in church-owned facilities to refund portions of their pensions started in April. He would not discuss other changes or aspects of the pension plan, including what the archbishop said in his private meetings with clergy.

Gavin said the archdiocese planned to release "detailed financial reports" about its spending and costs this summer.


Dioceses across the country have faced similar financial struggles in recent years, compounded by dwindling attendance, aging clergy, and the economic downturn. But the impact has been acute in Philadelphia, where more than a million Catholics and hundreds of priests are also grappling with the fallout from clergy sex-abuse allegations. "The caveat for priests was always that the diocese was going to take care of you," said one Philadelphia pastor nearing retirement who asked not to be identified discussing his employer's finances. "None of us knew when Chaput arrived here 20 months ago that the diocese was in this bad of shape."

Chaput himself didn't know it, he conceded in an interview with The Inquirer in the fall. Only after moving from Denver in 2011, he said, did he realize that his predecessors in Philadelphia had relied on deficit-spending budgets for 15 years.

His tenure since has included a drumbeat of grim financial decisions: shuttering schools, closing or merging parishes, and selling off assets, including the cardinal's residence on City Avenue and an oceanfront home for clergy in Ventnor, N.J.

The archdiocese has 425 active priests, most living in rectories and other church-owned facilities across the region. It also counts 161 retired priests on its rolls, and cares for many of them. If they remain healthy, priests typically retire at age 75 and qualify for an annual pension worth half their final salary, usually about $12,000, clergy members said.

Some leave to live with relatives or on their own in private homes. Others live in parish rectories, or at Villa St. Joseph, a church-owned retirement complex in Darby. But some of the older archdiocesan priests never registered for Social Security, and they end up retiring without a guaranteed government check or medical benefits, priests said.

Adding to the pension fund was one of six goals highlighted during the "Heritage of Faith, Vision of Hope" fund-raising campaign launched in 2009.

"Established in the early 1990s, the priests' pension plan currently has over $10 million in assets," literature for the campaign said. "In order to meet the anticipated needs of our retired priests, the pension plan requires an additional $40 million."

That campaign sought $12 million for the pension plan and $3 million for renovations at Villa St. Joseph.

When it ended in early 2011, the campaign had yielded pledges of more than $220 million, church officials said. Earlier this year, they publicly acknowledged that collections on those pledges had fallen short, and they downgraded their projected receipts to less than $180 million.

Gavin, the spokesman, said $4 million in Heritage of Faith donations were transferred into the priest pension fund on Jan. 31. But he declined to elaborate or discuss updated totals for the rest of the money collected and spent, a topic the archdiocese is expected to address in its report this summer.

One suburban pastor said the redemption rate on pledges "took a dive" soon after the campaign ended, about the same time a Philadelphia grand jury report led to the arrest of four current or former priests and the suspension of two dozen others accused of child sex abuse or misconduct.

In his meetings with clergy, the archbishop specifically denied that their pension funds had been used to cover costs related to the suspensions or ensuing investigations, some of which are still open, the priests said.

Last year, Chaput reported that the archdiocese had spent more than $11 million through June 2012 related to those cases.

The abuse and misconduct allegations have had at least an indirect impact, pushing more priests into early retirement. Priests who have agreed to leave public ministry and accept a life of "prayer and penance" after being accused of sexual abuse or misconduct are eligible to collect their pensions, according to information on the archdiocese's website. At least 19 priests are now living under such restrictions, most on the same campus as Villa St. Joseph's.

At least 25 other priests from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia have been laicized or voluntarily left the priesthood in the last decade. Church officials have not disclosed how many of those defrocked priests, some of whom were in the clergy for decades, collect a pension.

Earlier this month, Gavin declined another request for that information.


Clergy pension funds have plunged in Boston and other dioceses, according to Charles Zech, who directs the center for the study of church management at Villanova University. Zech said he had not examined the financial situation in Philadelphia but wasn't surprised to hear about the pension-fund troubles.

This archdiocese, he said, seems to have been battered by "a perfect storm of bad things happening at once."

full article at Philadelphia Inquirer

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Curia strikes back

Mark Silk
Spiritual Politics
June 14, 2013

You may think that Pope Francis is a simple man of the people, eschewing the fancy trappings of office out of devotion to the poor and a rejection of papal monarchism.

No way, says veteran vaticanista Sandro Magister in yesterday’s post on his blog, Chiesa(see here).

His reticence in attributing to himself the name of pope and his preference for calling himself as bishop of Rome have made champions of the democratization of the Church rejoice.

But theirs is a blunder.

According to Magister, the man in white is actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He’s Bergoglio the Jesuit, playing by the rules of his order, governing as if were superior general of the Society of Jesus, the autocratic “Black Pope.”

The evidence? To reform the Vatican bank Francis has brought in a manager from the “mysterious” McKinsey management consulting company. And instead of relying on the existing structures of church authority, he’s appointed his his own group of eight cardinals to reform the curia.

In early October the eight will be gathered around the pope. They will deliver to him a sheaf of proposals. He will be the one to decide. Alone.

I’m no Vaticanista, but I know a media hit when I see one. And this is how the curiales are fighting back.

It’s pretty clever to play the Jesuit card the way they have. For centuries, the Jesuits were emblems of Catholic deviousness — the elite operatives who grabbed the money, pulled the international strings, playing fast and loose with the rules of morality. Forget Dan Brown and Opus Dei. The Great Jesuit Conspiracy against truth, justice, and democracy is back!

But there’s another way Jesuits figure in the history of the Church, and one more relevant to the struggle at hand. In 17th-century France, it was them against the Jansenists, Augustinian puritans who believed in a Catholicism of the Chosen, zealots who in the name of opposing centralized Roman authority worked for a smaller, more rigid Church.

Thus, in the name of democracy, Magister gives voice to the neo-Jansenists in the Vatican, those eager to tighten the screws of orthodoxy and to bar the door against anyone who does not meet their standards of conduct. They are no friends of democracy in the Church, and they don’t like Francis’ traditional Jesuit message of inclusion and advance. They feel the levers of power slipping from their fingers. And they’re scared.

Stockton diocese finances strained in the wake of abuse lawsuits bishops says

Sue Nowicki
Modesto Bee
June 15, 2013

It will be 20 years next month since Oliver O'Grady last served as a priest in the Stockton Diocese. Yet the impact of the notorious pedophile's 22 years at five parishes remains huge — on his victims and on the diocese's finances. To date, more than two dozen of O'Grady's victims have collected nearly $25 million in damages from the diocese and its insurance providers, including a $1.75 million settlement announced last week. That does not include an additional $500,000 scheduled to be paid over the next several years in one case, and there are two additional O'Grady lawsuits pending.

Compare that with about $7 million awarded for all other clergy abuse lawsuits against six priests and one Catholic brother, including the largest, a $3.75 million award against the Rev. Michael Kelly last year. Two more lawsuits are pending against him.

Sunday, a letter from Bishop Stephen Blaire was read in all of the diocese's 35 parishes and 14 missions, or small churches, from Lodi to Turlock and from Tracy to Mammoth. It referred to the "evil of sexual abuse" and stated: "The cash reserves from which these payments are made are all but gone. The money that remains for handling these cases is a small fraction of what is needed to face pending lawsuits as well as any new claims."

Blaire said that although protection through bankruptcy has been mentioned as a possible solution, "no decision has been made."

He pointed out that each parish is set up as a separate corporation and so would not be affected by the diocese's decision on the matter.

Thursday, the bishop provided detailed diocesan financial information. He said the reserve account was established in 1962, when the diocese was created out of the archdiocese of San Francisco. The archdiocese gave the fledgling diocese "around $6 million to get them started," Blaire said.

When he arrived as the fifth bishop in 1999, the account held about $10 million and was used mainly for emergency purposes, "like replacing a roof," Blaire said. But since then, most of the money has gone to pay the diocese's share of clergy sexual abuse lawsuits. There's now "less than a million" dollars left in that account, he said.

With four remaining lawsuits against the diocese and an unknown number in the future, diocese officials are discussing several options.

"We have enough money to run the diocese," Blaire said. "We don't have money for these four cases or any other. We have to figure out how to meet the needs to provide compensation for anyone who has been victimized or hurt. These victims … deserve compensation. We've paid out over $15 million of diocesan money, plus all the insurance money, plus the attorney fees. The point is, we've reached the end of our ability to provide that compensation."

O'Grady root of problem

O'Grady, he said, is the root of much of the problem.

Before he was deported to his native Ireland in 2000, O'Grady agreed to be defrocked in exchange for a diocese-provided annuity that began paying out in June 2010 when he turned 65. The 10-year plan, which cost the diocese about $77,000, pays O'Grady $788 a month. He is in a Dublin prison, sentenced last year to three years for possession of thousands of images of child pornography.

"He violated the trust of the people in all of the (Stockton) parishes he was in," Blaire said. "What he did was an enormous harm to the people he abused, as well as the diocese he was serving. The consequences will be with us for a long, long time.

"I know personally many of those who have been hurt by him. I just cry when I speak to them. It should never have happened."

Besides the human toll, he added, there is the financial cost.

"There is no easy answer," he said. "I don't know a diocese that runs as slim an operation as we do. You can't cut back any further."

Nancy Sloan, one of O'Grady's first victims, said Friday: "I am saddened to hear the Stockton Diocese has jumped on board to hide behind loopholes in a blatant act of irresponsibility. If appropriate actions by decades of bishops had been taken immediately against the pedophile priests such as Oliver O'Grady, there would not be the necessity of civil actions."

Victims don't look forward to lawsuits, she said.

"No victim cherishes the act of going to court. We have been through enough for many lifetimes, but for the Stockton Diocese to hide behind a bankruptcy claim is one slap too many. The diocese is not poor, except in judgment. Sell properties, get rid of ornate possessions, live in action as Jesus did."

The diocese, which runs on about $5 million a year in operational expenses, will decide on a course of action "in a few months," Blaire said.

John Manly, a Southern California attorney who has represented several of the victims, said the diocese has plenty of money and is basically playing a shell game.

"The fact is the Stockton Diocese has about $40 million in liquid assets," he said. "Our estimation is they have between $75 million and $100 million in diocese and parish accounts.

"Essentially, what the Stockton Diocese has done is put it in various accounts, not putting it in the reserve fund, and pretending they don't have any money. It's like Google taking all of their billions and putting it in a Swiss bank account and leaving half a million in a U.S. bank account and saying that's all they have. I can't prevent them from filing bankruptcy, but they'll have to explain (all those accounts) to the court."

Blaire acknowledged there are additional accounts, such as 35 incorporated parish funds and others, for example, for Catholic Charities, St. Mary's High School, Central Catholic High School and Catholic Cemeteries. There also is the capital campaign fund set up in 2008 as a corporation and governed by its own board. But he said all of that money is designated for things such as scholarships and construction costs in poor parishes and doesn't go for diocesan operating expenses.

Accusation rejected

He rejects Manly's charge that filing for bankruptcy would be a strategic move to prevent turning over material in the Michael Kelly cases or to eliminate settlements.

A bankruptcy filing has helped a handful of other dioceses around the country, Blaire said, but only where there has been plenty of communication and thoughtful discussions among all parties, including attorneys and clergy abuse victims. "We are looking at some serious steps," he said. "My hope is to take every step carefully, keeping everyone informed, as we try to work out this situation."

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Bergoglio, the "Black Pope" dressed in white

Sandro Magister
June 13, 2013

ROME, June 13, 2013 - All that was lacking was a guru from McKinsey to design that reform of the curia which everyone expects from Pope Francis. And here he comes.

His name is Thomas von Mitschke-Collande, he is German and was the manager of the Munich branch of the most famous and mysterious company of managerial consulting in the world.

In matters of the Church, he knows his stuff. Last year he published a book with a title that was hardly reassuring: “Does the Church want to destroy itself? Facts and analyses presented by a business consultant.” The diocese of Berlin turned to him to get its accounts back in order, and the German episcopal conference asked him to draw up a plan to save on costs and personnel.

The idea of putting him to work for the reform of the Roman curia as well came from Reinhard Marx, the archbishop of Munich, one of the eight cardinals called by pope Jorge Mario Bergoglio to act as his advisor.

The proposal, which he welcomed enthusiastically, was made to him by Fr. Hans Langerdörfer, the powerful secretary of the German episcopal conference, a Jesuit.

Bergoglio is also a Jesuit, and by now his actions have made it clear that he intends to apply to the papacy the methods of governance typical of the Society of Jesus, where the superior general, nicknamed the “black pope,” has practically absolute power.

His reticence in attributing to himself the name of pope and his preference for calling himself as bishop of Rome have made champions of the democratization of the Church rejoice.

But theirs is a blunder. When Francis, on April 13, appointed eight cardinals “to advise him in the governance of the universal Church and to study a project for the revision of the Roman curia,” he selected them according to his own judgment.

If he had followed the suggestions of the preconclave,he would have found the “council of the crown” nice and ready. All he had to do was to call around himself the twelve cardinals, three for each continent, elected at the end of each synod and therefore of the last as well, in October of 2012. Elected by a secret vote and representative of the elite of the worldwide episcopate, containing almost all of the influential names of the last conclave: cardinals Timothy Dolan of New York, Odilo Scherer of São Paulo, Brazil, Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, Peter Erdö of Budapest, Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle of Manila.

But no. Pope Francis wanted his eight advisors to be chosen by himself alone, not by others. Called to answer only to him, not to an elective assembly as well.

He wanted one for each geographical area: Reinhard Marx for Europe, Sean Patrick O'Malley for North America, Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga for Central America, Francisco Javier Errázuriz Ossa for South America, Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya for Africa, Oswald Gracias for Asia, George Pell for Oceania, plus one from Rome, not of the curia strictly speaking but of Vatican City-State, the president of its governorate, Giuseppe Bertello.

Almost all of those chosen hold or have held executive positions in continental ecclesiastical institutions.

But this is exactly what happens in the Society of Jesus. Bergoglio was one of its provincial superiors and assimilated its style. In the leadership of the Society the assistants who surround the superior general, appointed by him, represent their respective geographical areas. The decisions are not made collegially. Only the superior general decides, with direct and immediate powers. The assistants do not need to agree with one another and with him; they advise the superior general one by one, in the greatest freedom.

One effect of this system upon the reform of the Roman curia announced by Pope Francis is that no commission of experts has been installed with the task of elaborating a unified and complete project.

The eight cardinals are asking separately for the contribution of persons they trust, of the most disparate profiles. In addition to the McKinsey man recruited by Cardinal Marx, at least a dozen of them have been consulted, from various countries.

Others have come forward of their own initiative, as for example Cardinal Francesco Coccoalmerio, president of the pontifical council for legislative texts, the designer of a project of reform centered upon a “moderator curiae" who would take care of the functioning of the machine.

In early October the eight will be gathered around the pope. They will deliver to him a sheaf of proposals. He will be the one to decide. Alone.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Francis, Ratzinger and the Pelagianism risk

Andrea Tornielli
Vatican Insider
June 12, 2013

Although it was Pope Francis’ comments on the existence of a gay lobby and corruption in the Vatican and the fact that clerics should not be discouraged when they end up in the cross-hairs of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, that attracted the media’s attention, the summary of the conversation which took place between Francis and CLAR’s clerics last 6 June, contains some interesting passages relating to today’s Church. CLAR’s leaders made it clear they had nothing to do with the publication of the text, which is essentially a reconstruction of what was said, based on participants’ recollections.

The two concerns the Pope apparently expressed in his conversation with Latin American clerics are to do with the risk of “Pelagianism” and “pantheist” gnosis. The first was regarding the doctrines of the Irish monk Pelagius, which were contested by St. Augustine and condemned by the Council of Ephesus in 451. According to Pelagian heresy, original sin did not really contaminate human nature and so humans are apparently able to choose the path of goodness and avoid sin without the help of mercy. In recent decades some were averse to a return to Pelagianism because hyperactivism in the Church, trusting in human plans and projects and believing that human action is what makes the Church what it is, ends up nullifies the action of mercy and reduces everything to human ability.

According to the summary of the Pope’s conversation with CLAR, which was published on the Reflexión y Liberación website, Francis talked about the existence of a “Pelagian current in the Church at this moment” and that “there are some restorationist groups.” “I know some, it fell upon me to receive them in Buenos Aires. … And one feels as if one goes back 60 years! Before the Council…,” the Pope apparently said. Francis is said to have added: “when I was elected, I received a letter from one of these groups, and they said: "Your Holiness, we offer you this spiritual treasure: 3,525 rosaries." Why don't they say, 'we pray for you, we ask...', but this thing of counting...” The Pope stressed that he did not in any way intend to make this example sound ridiculous with his description.

The reference to traditionalism sparked an immediate reaction among professed Ratzingerians who pointed to a discontinuity with Benedict XVI. But these censors got it wrong. It was the then cardinal Joseph Ratzinger himself who spoke about the “Pelagianism of the pious”. During the Spiritual Exercises of 1986 (in the book “Guardare Cristo: esempi di fede, speranza e carità” [Looking at Christ: Examples of faith, hope and charity]; published by Jaka Book), Ratzinger said: “the other face of the same vice is the Pelagianism of the pious. They do not want forgiveness and in general they do not want any real gift from God either. They just want to be in order. They don’t want hope they just want security. Their aim is to gain the right to salvation through a strict practice of religious exercises, through prayers and action. What they lack is humility which is essential in order to love; the humility to receive gifts not just because we deserve it or because of how we act…”

Francis’ second concern is also interesting because it seems to call attention to the declarations made by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith against philosophies and currents of thought that end up “wiping out” incarnation. The current Francis was referring to was “the Gnostic current…Those Pantheisms…”. Gnosticism is a philosophical and religious current that became particularly popular between the second and the fourth centuries and still exists in some religious tendencies like the “New Age”. Both Pelagianism and Gnosticism are “elite currents”, the Pope is said to have stated, “but the latter is of a more educated elite... I heard of a superior general that prompted the sisters of her congregation to not pray in the morning, but to spiritually bathe in the cosmos, things like that... They concern me because they ignore the incarnation! And the Son of God became our flesh, the Word was made flesh, and in Latin America we have flesh abundantly [de tirar al techo]! What happens to the poor, their pains, this is our flesh... The Gospel is not the old rule, nor is it this Pantheism. If you look at the periphery; the destitute... the drug addicts! Human trafficking... This is the Gospel. The poor are the Gospel...”

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Editorial: The bishops' big guns in Trenton

Star-Ledger Editorial Board
June 10, 2013

What if, during his recent travels with a couple of Catholic youth groups, the Rev. Michael Fugee had a relapse and groped another child? There’s no evidence that happened, but it’s a legitimate concern. There’s a reason prosecutors made him promise never to work with children again.

Years from now, what if a child says Fugee crossed a line?

As we speak, New Jersey’s Catholic leaders are spending big bucks to make sure the church, its bishops and, most importantly, its bank accounts can’t be held responsible for crimes committed on their watch.

Princeton Public Affairs Group is the most high-powered, high-priced lobbying outfit in Trenton. That’s whom the New Jersey Catholic Conference has hired to fight legislation meant to give victims of childhood sexual abuse the time they need to seek justice.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), extends the statute of limitations from two years to 30 years for victims to file suit against their abusers and the institutions that failed to protect them. That includes the Catholic Church, but it also covers all religious organizations, state and local governments, and schools.

For some victims of childhood abuse, time is critical. It may take years before they can talk about it. When they’re finally ready, they should find a justice system that’s ready to listen.

If Catholic leaders get their way, many will be told they’re too late.

It’s not a new tactic. The church has lobbied states for stricter time limits for victims to sue their attackers and those who protected them. In New York, for example, the church helped stop legislation that opened “windows” for victims to sue for past abuse.

The priest sex-abuse scandal has cost the Catholic Church $2.5 billion since it broke a decade ago. The church’s interest is obvious. By hiring Princeton Public Affairs, it is pulling out the big guns. Vitale’s job just got harder.

Cutting costs might be good business, but trying to escape sins of the past by silencing victims is cowardly. Lawsuits are chances for those child victims, now grown, to have a voice. We have to be ready to hear them.