Monday, September 30, 2013

NJ priest in sexting sting thought he was talking to 16 year old boy, wanted to meet

Mark Mueller
The Star-Ledger
September 29, 2013

The text messages read as if they’ve been ripped from a pornographic novel. Matthew Riedlinger quizzed his texting partner about sex videos, pressed for details about intimate liaisons, described sexual acts and encouraged mutual masturbation.

He also repeatedly asked to meet.

"Promise me you will never breath (sic) a word of this to anyone — ok?" he wrote.

Riedlinger had good reason for discretion.

He is a priest of the Diocese of Trenton, and while exchanging more than 1,200 text messages over four weeks last year, he thought was he talking to a 16-year-old boy.

Riedlinger, at the time an assistant pastor at St. Aloysius Church in Jackson and a sex-education teacher at the parish school, was the target of an elaborate sting by a Catholic University of America graduate who says the priest sexually harassed him for years.

Timothy Schmalz, now 23 and a resident of Washington, D.C., said he was moved to action after his first complaint about Riedlinger in 2011 resulted in what he characterized as a slap on the wrist by Trenton Bishop David M. O’Connell.

Schmalz is one of five young men who provided The Star-Ledger with similar accounts of harassment and sexual obsession by the priest. Four of the five were in their late teens or early 20s when Riedlinger began inappropriate and persistent sexual dialogues with them, they said. The fifth was in his late 20s.

The sting, initiated on Facebook and carried out through the use of a Google Voice account, partially served its purpose.

After Schmalz forwarded transcripts of the text messages and other materials to O’Connell in August 2012, the bishop removed Riedlinger from the parish, placed him in an in-patient treatment program and later assigned him to restricted ministry away from children, the diocese confirmed.

But for more than a year, O’Connell refused to tell parishioners at St. Aloysius why the priest had been pulled, an omission that advocates for victims of clergy sex abuse call a flagrant violation of the church’s pledge of transparency.

Moreover, the former pastor, the Rev. Kevin Keelan, chastised parishioners for asking questions about Riedlinger’s removal, saying in the church bulletin that "blabbing" was a sin and that they were not entitled to more information.

O’Connell informed parishioners of the complaints in a statement only last weekend, a day after The Star-Ledger questioned the diocese about Riedlinger and the decision to withhold information about the allegations.

Even then, the statement makes no mention of the fact that Riedlinger believed he was corresponding with a 16-year-old boy during sexually explicit conversations.


full article at NJ News

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Cardinal chair of curia reform says old structure is over

Thomas Reese
National Catholic Reporter
September 28, 2013

The chair of the committee of cardinals charged with reforming the Vatican curia said that the current system is over, and it is time for something different. As a result, the reform will not come quickly but will require "long discussion and long discernment."

Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga responded to questions about the curial reform process in a wide-ranging interview with Basilian Father Thomas Rosica of Salt and Light Television in Canada earlier this week. Cardinal Rodríguez is chair of the committee of eight cardinals who were appointed by Pope Francis to advise him on reforming the curia. The cardinals will meet in Rome for the first time October 1-3.

Cardinal Rodríguez also revealed that, within four days of his election, the pope had already decided on Archbishop Pietro Parolin as his secretary of state even though the announcement did not come until the end of August.

Cardinal Rodríguez said that his committee has received suggestions from all over the world, 80 pages of suggestions from Latin American alone. "We have put them together around the main themes," he reports. "There is convergence in many of the main subjects so we can say that it is the work of the Holy Spirit, it is not ours. You cannot have millions of Catholics in the world suggesting the same unless the Holy Spirit is inspiring."

It is going to be a long process of discussion and discernment because "It is not just taking the constitution Pastor Bonus and trying to change this and that," referring to the 1988 papal constitution governing the organization of the Roman curia. "No, that constitution is over," he said. "Now it is something different. We need to write something different."

Eco: "Francis is the pope of the world of globalization"

Gerard O'Connell
Vatican Insider
September 28, 2013

In terms of communication, Pope Francis “is better than Ratzinger, he is a modern man, he is the Pope of the Internet, he is the Pope of the world of globalization”. That is the verdict of Umberto Eco, the world famous Italian semiotician, essayist, philosopher and author of the best-selling novel, “The Name of the Rose”.

“I am convinced that Pope Francis is representing something absolutely new in the history of the Church, and perhaps in the history of the world”, the Italian writer told La Nacion, one of the main Argentinean dailies in an interview published today in Buenos Aires.

He reacted with some discomfort, however, when asked by La Nacion for his opinion of Pope Francis: “I am extremely annoyed when the whole world asks me what I think of Pope Francis. It would be interesting to know what Pope Francis thinks of me, but I do not know…”

“When some rather ingeniously ask me whether he (Francis) represents a revolution, I reply that revolutions are only evaluated after a hundred years”, Eco added.

Asked what he thought of the fact that the Pope had written a letter to the founder of the Italian daily, La Repubblica, Eugenio Scalfari, ‘a non-believer, in response to two editorials written by him in that paper, Eco, clearly not enthusiastic, remarked, “Well, it was an incentive for the print media”, in other words it helped sales.

Pushed for what he really thought about this, Eco responded, “I would not permit myself to judge Pope Francis, who probably wrote this letter because it seemed useful and interesting for him to do so, and that is very good.” He recalled how ten-years ago he had corresponded with Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, and this resulted in four long letters that were subsequently published as a book.

Responding to a question as to whether he was surprised that the papacy has gone out of Europe for the first time in more than a millennium, Eco recalled that “it went out of Italy” with the election of Karol Wojtyla in 1978, and prior to that the last non-Italian pope was Hadrian V from Utrecht in 1552. “When it happened with Wojtyla it was something new that showed that the Church was no longer an Italian power against the Germanic empire as it had been in the previous centuries, it was something universal. And so it seems to me that it was quite normal that there would be another foreign pope after Joseph Ratzinger”.

Surprisingly, the 82-year old Eco did not rate the fact that the papacy had crossed the Atlantic for the first time in history as “something exceptional” because of the airlines we have today.

He did concede, however, that the choice of the first Latin American pope in history marked the end of ‘euro-centrism” in the Church. “This no longer exists. If the cardinal chose this Pope, it means that we are in a globalized world. Therefore, because globalization exists, it is normal that they chose Argentinean Pope. They could have chosen a Pope from Ghana, but the chose one from Argentina. That’s globalization, and I don’t see how the Church could escape from this phenomenon”, he said.

Questioned how he, as a world-famous semiotician, rated the way Pope Francis communicates with the world, Eco said “he is better than Ratzinger, he is a modern man, he is the Pope of the Internet”. It does not matter that Francis does not use the computer, he said, “He is the Pope of the world of globalization. I find him highly interesting, but he doesn’t surprise me. It seems to me that he is in tune with the evolution of the global culture. What surprises me, however, is the curiosity of journalists or of the public at the fact that Pope Francis exists. I am not surprised.”

Umberto Eco admitted that he was “surprised” by “the fact that he (Francis) said ‘Buonsera’ (‘Good evening’)” when he greeted the world on the night of his election. “This was a rupture of a centuries old liturgy. They are small gestures that can signify a lot”, he stated.

Original interview:

Friday, September 27, 2013

For Newark, enter Bernie ..... for the bench, enter Francis

Rocco Palmo
Whispers in the Loggia
September 26, 2013

For all the smiles at the cameras and talk of a smooth transition, the difference between Newark Catholicism's present and future can be boiled down to this: while John Myers prefers to be addressed as "His Grace" – the British/Canadian style for archbishops – whatever title his successor might be saddled with, the next metropolitan of New Jersey will forever be known to all as, simply, "Bernie."

The mottoes are instructive, too: the incumbent chose for himself the refined, maybe even esoteric "Mysterium ecclesiae luceat" ("Let the mystery of the church shine forth"), a reference to the Vatican II constitution Lumen Gentium. His coadjutor's is straightforward and in English – two words: "Only Jesus."

Shot into the stratosphere as shepherd-in-waiting of the nation's ninth-largest diocese, Bernie Hebda's ascent to North Jersey has been described as "the first truly Francis appointment" on these shores: a distinctly pastoral, nonideological figure with a penchant for sharp ideas, hard work, close ties and creating oceans of goodwill across all sorts of divides.

Even on a normal day, Newark is one of the most complex and intense Stateside dioceses to run. Yet with the added high-wire at hand, all the nominee's qualities are set to come even more to the fore.

A former priest-secretary to Washington's Cardinal Donald Wuerl – who has quietly emerged as a key Stateside figure in Francis' orbit over recent months – the Pittsburgh-born Hebda is being sent in to quell a firestorm following months of damaging claims that Myers neglected to sufficiently supervise a priest who remained in ministry despite the cleric's admission to fondling a 14 year-old boy. Then again, perhaps Francis himself explained the coadjutor's mission ahead even more clearly in his interview with Antonio Spadaro SJ: "to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful."

Driven by a steady stream of blistering coverage in the local Star-Ledger, the storm began in February, after Fr Michael Fugee was named director of the archdiocesan office of Continuing Education for Priests 12 years after admitting to the misconduct with a minor. In late May, after the cleric was found to have violated a court agreement by continuing to work with young people, the role of the archdiocese – likewise a party to the deal which averted further prosecution against Fugee after his 2003 criminal trial fell apart on a technicality – came under even greater scrutiny, resulting in Myers' removal of his vicar-general. At the same time, the youth ministers who allowed Fugee to engage with kids under their supervision – both former employees of the Newark Chancery – were fired, the pastor of the parish where the events occurred was placed on leave, and Fugee resigned from active ministry shortly before his arrest for flouting the court deal; he was subsequently freed on bail.

A further onslaught came last month, when Myers' native diocese of Peoria, which he led from 1990-2001, settled a lawsuit for $1.35 million. The case centered on a priest there (now deceased) who continued to abuse after allegations were received by the now-archbishop. In a 2010 deposition for the suit, Myers attributed the confusion to inadequate record-keeping, but admitted to receiving gifts including rare coins and a prized camera from the accused cleric, who was made a monsignor after the complaints against him were levied. Following the settlement, the mother of the victim called for the archbishop "to go to jail," terming him a "predator" at a press conference organized by survivors' groups in front of the Newark offices.

Even as the media was thronged inside today, a handful of protestors were gathered again outside the Chancery during the morning press conference. One of the group went to far as to mock Myers' preferred moniker by carrying a sign that read "From His Grace to Disgrace."

A figure of considerable clout in Rome as chairman of the board of the Pontifical North American College – where his eventual successor likewise studied and later served as a spiritual director alongside his Curia job – the archbishop responded in a variety of forums, from a May YouTube video on the archdiocesan website to a Catholic press interview in which Myers said that Fugee's admission to groping the boy was a "mistake" the cleric had made "because he was tired" after hours of interrogation by police.

The most prominent defense, however, became an August letter to priests in which the archbishop charged his critics with being "simply evil, wrong, immoral and only focused on their self-aggrandizement," adding that "God will surely address them in due time."

One of the American hierarchy's leading conservatives for two decades – a onetime EWTN host who penned a controversial pastoral letter on marriage to coincide with his 25th anniversary in the episcopacy – the archbishop went on to muse over whether the stinging focus on him was based on "animus against our Roman Catholic Faith and its Teachings... of which I have always been a staunch and outspoken supporter despite their 'unpopularity' in the secular and 'politically correct' society that has developed around us?"

In a more recent riposte to the Star-Ledger, the longtime archdiocesan spokesman, Jim Goodness, accused the paper of turning a blind eye to "the financial gains, agendas, backgrounds, lives, and lifestyles of the detractors whom you have been regularly featuring as so-called 'protectors of children,'" challenging the daily to publish an "investigative piece" on the chorus calling for Myers' head.

But it's not the critics in print who can prod a selection process into motion. And as the developments turned uglier and the defenses became more heated, among the American hierarchy, their name became legion. Put another way, having written a 2008 science-fiction novel with his boyhood best friend, the storyline must've felt eerily familiar for Myers: justly or not, the long trail of decisions past had suddenly converged, creating a monster he could no longer control.

Beyond the continuing drip of ugly press in the US' largest media market, the story's endurance raised hackles elsewhere in New Jersey as complaints circulated that – in what was already one of the nation's most secularized states – the Newark situation was complicating the church's efforts to fight a bill extending the statute of limitations on civil abuse suits, as well as a fresh push to legalize same-sex marriage in the Garden State.

Though a bill to redefine marriage already passed the legislature in a prior session, it was vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie, a Catholic Republican, who has called for a ballot referendum on the question. New Jersey currently permits civil unions for gay couples, which confer all state benefits of marriage.

* * * The move for a Newark coadjutor is significant on numerous fronts: beyond representing Francis' most consequential US personnel-choice to date – both in terms of the archdiocese's size and Rome's tackling of a high-visibility crisis situation – the speed of the appointment represents a marked shift from prior practice. Instead of the standard months-long search process, the first indications that Myers would receive an early successor only began circulating within the last month, reflecting the case's priority as well as the new Pope's willingness to move quickly, guided by the advice of his own channels.

For his part, Myers said today that he had requested a coadjutor "some time ago" in light of his increasing age and that of two of his four auxiliary bishops, as well as several long-frame initiatives for the life of the Newark church. Even when they are made, however, petitions for a coadjutor are routinely denied by Rome and usually only granted in the presence of exceptional circumstances.

The archbishop sought to categorically refute any connection between the recent torrent and the early appointment of his successor, but declined to elaborate on the nature and timing of his "conversations with Rome." Citing Christ's command to "pray for those who persecute you," Myers added that the media remained in his prayers.

As for the nominee, much as the choice is a surprise, it's just as formidable of a pick. After being at Wuerl's side while the now-cardinal waged a years-long battle against the Vatican's supreme court, the Apostolic Signatura, to secure the removal of an abusive Pittsburgh priest, Hebda became the latest of several clerics from Steeler Country to impress the Rome crowd with his smarts and diligence, and just as much for an obvious lack of interest in becoming a lifer in the Curia. (The most prominent Pittsburgher of the same mould – now Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston – passed the Council ring he wore as a bishop to Hebda.)

After 13 years at the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts – half of that time as the office's undersecretary – while the top Vatican lawyer was arranging to return home for good through most of 2009, Pope Benedict had other plans. Hebda's appointment to Gaylord was announced during what was supposed to be a visit with his family; given Rome's mild temperatures relative to his hometown, the appointee arrived in Michigan without owning an overcoat. That would change quick, however – "flurries" having been forewarned, three inches of snow fell during Hebda's December 1st ordination.


Speaking at today's press conference, Myers indicated his intent to remain in office until he reaches the retirement age in July 2016. In the interim, the archbishop said his coadjutor would be involved in all aspects of the governance of the archdiocese.

Original article at Whispers in the Loggia

Polish church apologizes for child sex abuse

ABC News
September 27, 2013

A high official of Poland's Catholic Church apologized on Friday to the victims of pedophile priests while prosecutors said they will probe allegations that two Polish priests, including a Vatican envoy, sexually abused boys in the Dominican Republic.

Secretary of the Episcopate Bishop Wojciech Polak told a news conference that "sorry" was the least that was owed to the victims, and that the church was seeking to make amends and work on prevention.

But he said that any legal responsibility and financial compensation rested with the convicted wrongdoer, not with the church. He was addressing reporters in relation to both the allegations in the Dominican Republic and those in Poland, where some 27 priests have been convicted since 2001.

Mateusz Matyniuk, spokesman for the prosecutor general, said that Poland has obtained sufficient information from Dominican investigators to open a probe into pedophilia allegations against two Poles, one of whom has diplomatic status. He gave no names, but Dominican prosecutors have identified them as papal nuncio Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski and the Rev. Wojciech Gil, a parish priest.

The whereabouts of the two priests remain unknown to Poland's church, according to Polak.

The Holy See recalled Wesolowski, on Aug. 21, and relieved him of his mission as apostolic nuncio after learning of the allegations against him from Dominican church authorities.

Gil was in Poland on vacation from his Dominican parish of Juncalito when the allegations surfaced in May, and hasn't returned to the Dominican Republic, even though his superior has told him to face the Dominican justice system, according to the Rev. Tadeusz Musz, spokesman for Gil's order.

Polish media reported that Gil brought Dominican altar boys on vacation to Poland several times and lodged them at his mother's house and at the local parish house.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Women cardinals and 'female machismo'

Andrea Tornielli
Vatican Insider
September 26, 2013

American Jesuit theologian, Fr. James Keenan picked up on the idea on his Facebook page, proposing the appointment of women to the College of Cardinals – the world’s most exclusive “club” which for centuries has had the power of electing the Pope – as a pivotal change to the structure of the Catholic Church. Spanish journalist Juan Arias echoed this idea in an article he wrote for Spanish newspaper El País. In the article, Arias attributes the “idea” of appointing women bishops to Francis.

Lucetta Scaraffia, an historian and columnist for Italian daily Il Messaggero and Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, approved of this idea in an article published in Il Messaggero.

“The idea presented in El País newspaper of appointing women cardinals to the College of Cardinals is not new,” Scaraffia said. Other people – notably the great Catholic English anthropologist Mary Douglas – have also made their voices heard over the years, to show this is a key way to give women authority, thereby boosting their authoritativeness in the Catholic Church. The great advantage of appointing women cardinals would be that it could be done, whilst avoiding the thorny issue of the ordination of women to the priesthood.

It would constitute a big and significant change; the kind of change we are used to seeing from Pope Francis. It would not come as much of a shock given the Pope’s recent statements on the role of women in the Church. In an article for L’Osservatore Romano, Scaraffia herself complained about the scarcity of women in the pre-Conclave discussions last March, the aim of which was to outline the future of the Catholic Church and discuss the profile, characteristics, qualities and talents of the future Pope.

The idea of appointing women to the College of Cardinals is not new, Scaraffia noted. It was mentioned during the Synod of Bishops for Africa held on 10 October 1994, attended by John Paul II, when Mgr. Ernest Kombo, the Congo’s Jesuit bishop proposed the following: “Women must be able to rise to the highest positions in the establishment of the church, they should also be nominated as lay cardinals.” Shortly before this, the Anglican Church had ordained its first female priests in Westminster Abbey. John Paul II reacted to this by sending a long Apostolic Letter (the “Ordinatio sacerdotalis”) which stressed that it was impossible for the Catholic Church to ordain female priests.

Kombo’s speech drew a cool response. He prayed that women would become an important part of the consecrated body of the Church, both in terms of numbers and responsibility, with leading roles being given to them, such as lay cardinals, if possible. So what was being advocated was the creation of women cardinals not the ordination of women priests.

The cardinalate of course is an honorific title, not a Holy Order. The holder of the title of cardinal is a member of the clergy of the diocese of Rome and a collaborator and advisor of the Pope. Cardinals are expected to testify the faith usque ad sanguinis effusionem, meaning they must be ready to sacrifice their life for the faith. But Canon 351, paragraph 1, of the 1983 Code of Canon Law is also pretty clear on this: “The Roman Pontiff freely selects men to be promoted as cardinals, who have been ordained at least into the order of the presbyterate [i.e., priest] and are especially outstanding in doctrine, morals, piety, and prudence in action; those who are not yet bishops must receive Episcopal consecration.”

So “men” and “priests”. And once they are nominated, they must be ordained bishops. This law was introduced by John XXIII and meant that for centuries there were cardinals who were just priests or just deacons (the last cardinal deacon who was not a priest was Giovanni Mercati, created cardinal by Pius XI in 1936).

The Episcopacy rule still holds although under the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, the Church started to do away with it in cases where an individual who was nominated cardinal asked to be exempted from Episcopal ordination due to their advanced age at the time of their nomination. Many theologians who were created cardinals after the age of 80 asked not to be made bishops, including the Jesuits Henri De Lubac, Avery Robert Dulles, Roberto Tucci and Albert Vanhoye.

It is also worth remembering that a cardinal is by definition a member of the clergy. So being clericus - ordained that is - is not just a requirement of the Code of Canon Law but a constituent element of the cardinalate. When someone is created cardinal they become a member of the clergy of the diocese of Rome. It is this status that enables cardinals to vote for the Bishop of Rome.

What did Francis say regarding the role of women in the Church? In his interview with Italian Jesuit journal Civiltà Cattolica, he explained: “It is necessary to broaden the opportunities for a stronger presence of women in the church.” But he also added: “I am wary of a solution that can be reduced to a kind of ‘female machismo,’ because a woman has a different make-up than a man. But what I hear about the role of women is often inspired by an ideology of machismo.”

“The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. The woman is essential for the church. Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops. I say this because we must not confuse the function with the dignity.” This suggests that it is essential for women to be appreciated in the Church but not through “clericalisation”. It seems rather hasty to assume that Francis’ statements allude to the idea of the creation of female cardinals. It is not essential to dress women in red to ensure they are valued and given responsibilities in the Church.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

'America' apologizes for omission in Francis interview

Dennis Coday
National Catholic Reporter
September 25, 2013

In its historic 12,000-word interview with Pope Francis released last week, America magazine "inadvertently" omitted a sentence from the pope's comments about the role of women in the church, the magazine's editor-in-chief said.

When Jesuit Fr. Antonio Spadaro asked Francis, "What should be the role of women in the church?", Francis replied, "'It is necessary to broaden the opportunities for a stronger presence of women in the church." This sentence was left out of the English translation of the interview America published. The sentence appears in the original Italian article and in the French, German and Spanish translations.

The missing sentence was discovered by NCR columnist Phyllis Zagano, an expert on deacons and women's issues in the church. Zagano writes about the omission in her column, "What the pope really said," published Wednesday on

In a statement sent to NCR on Tuesday, America Editor-in-Chief Jesuit Fr. Matt Malone said, "Due to production error, one sentence in America's interview with Pope Francis was inadvertently deleted. ... America apologizes for this error, which was entirely inadvertent."

"The text will be corrected immediately in our online version of the article and a correction will be printed in the next issue of America," Malone told NCR.

Zagano wrote in her column that she believes the omission is a serious error that affected how people reading the interview in English understood what Francis said.

Francis was reacting to a question from Spadaro about church leaders who have told women, "There is no space for you in the church," Zagano told NCR in an interview Wednesday.

"Francis has turned that expression -- 'no space for you' -- around. He is saying, There is space for you here, pull up a chair," Zagano said.

"What is lost is the magnanimity of Francis welcoming women to positions of responsibility in our church," Zagano said.


full article at National Catholic Reporter

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Jesuit suggests female cardinals

Joshua J McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
September 24, 2013

A noted U.S. Jesuit priest and theologian has taken to Facebook to propose a key change in the structure of the Catholic church: the naming of women to the College of Cardinals, the elite church body responsible for electing the pope.

Posting Tuesday on his personal Facebook page, Jesuit Fr. James Keenan asked his friends and associates to propose names of women around the world who should be considered as possible cardinal candidates.

"I have been getting lots of likes from all over when I said that I think making a woman a cardinal is a very easy matter, why?" asks Keenan, who holds the founders professorship in theology at Boston College. "Because there are so many good candidates!"

"Should we not use social networking to put some names out there?" he asks, suggesting people mention women not from their own country that might make good cardinals.

Cardinals, sometimes known as the "princes of the church" and for their wearing of red vestments, are personally named by the pope. They are usually senior Catholic prelates who serve either as archbishops in the world's largest dioceses' or in the Vatican's central bureaucracy.

After a pope's death or renunciation of the papal office, cardinals are also responsible for governing the church until they meet together in a secret conclave to elect the next pontiff.

As cardinals are not ordained into their ministry, some have suggested that it would be possible for the church to name women as cardinals without changing the church's teaching regarding the ordination of only men to the priesthood.

While canon law currently specifies that a cardinal must either be a priest or a bishop, some have also wondered whether the appointment of female cardinals might be a reform Pope Francis is considering.

If that were to happen, women among those on Keenan's list are: Linda Hogan, a professor of ecumenics at Trinity College Dublin; Holy Child Jesus Sr. Teresa Okure, a theology professor at the Catholic Institute of West Africa in Nigeria; and Maryanne Loughry, the associate director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Australia.

At least one prominent current cardinal has already suggested the naming of female cardinals could be possible.

According to U.S Catholic, New York's Archbishop Timothy Dolan said in an interview last year it was "theoretically" possible for the pope to name female cardinals.

"I’ve heard it from more than one person that one time somebody said to Blessed John Paul II, ‘You should make Mother Teresa of Calcutta a cardinal,’" Dolan, who also heads the U.S. bishops' conference, states in the interview.

"The pope said, ‘I asked her, she doesn’t want to be one.,'" Dolan said.

Archdiocese knew of priest's sexual misbehavior, yet kept him in ministry

[This is long, but worth reading. It shows, again, that neither sexual abuse nor cover-up of sexual abuse are things of the past. As in Philadelphia, Newark and Kansas City, top St Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocesan officials covered up priestly abusive behavior and enabled continued access to victims despite warnings from parishoners, parents, priests and diocesan employees]

Madeline Baran
Minnesota Public Radio News
September 23, 2013

Curtis Wehmeyer kept his white 2006 camper parked outside Blessed Sacrament Church in St. Paul where he served for six years, three of them as pastor.

With the shades drawn, Wehmeyer could avoid the obligations of priestly life. He got drunk, smoked pot and looked at child pornography. He also lured to the camper two boys whose mother worked at the parish, plied them with alcohol, turned on pornography and told them to touch themselves. Several times, he touched one of the boys, according to police records.

The family trusted "Father Curt." As a priest, he had special powers. He could anoint the sick and baptize the young. Maybe, the mother hoped, he could inspire one of her sons to become a priest.

That hope died last summer when one of the boys told his aunt what happened in the camper. The mother went to another priest, and then to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Soon after, police arrested Wehmeyer, who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing the boys, ages 12 and 14, and possessing child pornography. A judge sentenced the priest to five years in prison.

In public statements, the archdiocese expressed regret for "the pain caused by clergy misconduct" and offered support to victims. And it emphasized that it immediately reported the allegations to police. "They did the right thing," Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said in September 2012.

The message from the archdiocese was clear – this wouldn't be like the many horrific clergy sex abuse cases that rocked the Roman Catholic Church a decade ago. Times had changed. The safety of children mattered more than the career of a predator priest.

The reality was far different. This wasn't the first time Wehmeyer had been in trouble. Top archdiocese leaders knew of Wehmeyer's sexual compulsions for nearly a decade but kept him in ministry and failed to warn parishioners, according to canon lawyer Jennifer Haselberger, who resigned in April, and dozens of other interviews and documents.

A memo written in 2011 obtained by MPR News from police shows the former vicar general – the top deputy of the archdiocese – did not want parish employees to know about Wehmeyer's past.

"At every step of the way, this could have been prevented," Haselberger said. "This is just failure after failure after failure after failure."

The decision in 2011 to still keep Wehmeyer's sexual behavior secret came at a time when the Rev. Kevin McDonough was assuring the archdiocese's 800,000 parishioners that the church was doing everything it could to protect children from abuse. Across the nation bishops were being forced to confront their decisions to protect priests and hide abuse, which resulted in millions of dollars in payments to victims. At the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the fallout from the clergy sex abuse scandal had been minimal.

McDonough likely knows more about clergy sexual abuse cases than anyone else at the archdiocese. He served as vicar general from 1991 to 2008 under Archbishops John Roach and Harry Flynn and more recently served as the "delegate for safe environment," a job that includes oversight of all child abuse prevention efforts in the archdiocese. He quietly left that role earlier this month.

In an interview with MPR News in 2010, McDonough said priests need to be held to a high standard. "The reality is our first obligation is to protect the members of the church," he said. "So we ought to be, of course, a hundred times stricter against anyone who could harm especially the vulnerable members of our church."

At the time he said that, McDonough already knew that Wehmeyer had engaged in troubling sexual encounters — that he had approached young men for sex at a bookstore and cruised nearby parks.

In the 2011 memo to the head of the archdiocese's program for monitoring priests who posed a risk, McDonough explained why he thought parish employees didn't need to know about Wehmeyer's actions.

"I think that you share with me the opinion that he really was not all that interested in an actual sexual encounter, but rather was obtaining some stimulation by 'playing with fire,'" McDonough wrote. "This sort of behavior would not show up in the workplace."

McDonough also asked Wehmeyer for his opinion on whether to tell parish employees. Wehmeyer, who by that time had already sexually abused the children of a parish employee, advised against it.

McDonough wrote, "I agree with Father Curtis that disclosure there would only serve to out his sexual identity questions (which, by the way, would be unlikely to surprise any observant person in the parish!)"

He concluded, "My recommendation is that we would encourage (or even require) Father Wehmeyer to disclose his pattern of self-destructive behavior to a small circle of trusted friends."

McDonough sent a copy of the memo to the Rev. Peter Laird, the current vicar general.


Laird and Archbishop John Nienstedt declined to be interviewed for this story. Wehmeyer, who is in prison in St. Cloud, also declined an interview request.

"A grave danger," says one lawyer

St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson exposed the clergy sex abuse cover-up in Minnesota in the 1980s. Since then, he’s filed lawsuits on behalf of thousands of victims of sexual abuse across the country.

"The review of this [McDonough's] memo sounds an absolute alarm that this guy is a grave danger," Anderson said. "And any parent that is told of even a part of the contents of this memo would never allow their kids to be even close to this … priest."

Anderson said the memo shows the archdiocese continues to cover up sexual acts by clergy and protect the reputation of its priests at the expense of the faithful.


Thomas Doyle, a Dominican priest who was one of the earliest national whistleblowers on clergy sex abuse in the 1980s, said the memo shows that parents cannot trust the archdiocese to protect their children.

"Celibate clergy who aren't trained in psychology are in no position to make that kind of a judgment call over someone like Wehmeyer," he said.

Doyle called the memo "goofy, quasi-psychological mumbo jumbo."

"I mean, sit him down with a group of his peers and disclose to them what his problems are so that they'll help him mature? Wait a minute, come on. That's nonsense," he said.


The Catholic Spirit profiled the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer just before his ordination. (MPR Photo/Tom Scheck) Wehmeyer told the newspaper he looked forward to helping people in need. He added that some of the rules of architecture also apply to the priesthood.

"A priest needs to stay in the parameters of what the church teaches," Wehmeyer said. "But the church, in her wisdom, allows a space that the priest can operate out of with a certain creativity to reach people where they're coming from."

Three years later – in 2004 – Wehmeyer approached two young men ages 19 and 20 for sex at a Barnes & Noble store in Roseville. "It was really strange, the way he came on to us," one of the men, Andy Chapeau, said in an interview with MPR News.

Wehmeyer leaned close to one of the men and said, "Are you f—horny right now?"

A Catholic parishioner and family friend who learned of the encounter took statements from the two men and sent them to McDonough, along with his own letter expressing alarm. The parishioner told McDonough that he had a 15-year-old son who attended a youth group with Wehmeyer.

McDonough met with the concerned parishioner and one of the men approached by Wehmeyer at the bookstore. He assured them that Wehmeyer was receiving counseling. The parishioner wasn’t satisfied with McDonough's answers, and he worried that he might hear about Wehmeyer in the news years later. When that happened, the parishioner wrote a furious letter to Nienstedt, the archbishop.

In an interview with MPR News, the parishioner declined to discuss what happened, calling it a "painful experience."

After Wehmeyer's actions at the bookstore, the archdiocese sent him to St. Luke Institute, a treatment center in Silver Spring, Md., for clergy with sexual and psychological disorders. When Wehmeyer returned he was supposed to attend regular Sexaholics Anonymous meetings and report his attendance to then-Archbishop Harry Flynn, Haselberger said.

"I know I shouldn't be here"

Wehmeyer didn’t stay out of trouble for long.

An officer spotted the priest, wearing a plaid shirt and jeans, inside a pickup truck at a popular cruising spot at a St. Paul park one afternoon in 2006. Wehmeyer told the officer he didn't know the area was a popular place for anonymous sex.

"The only thing he said was, 'I'm a priest. I know I shouldn't be here,'" the officer recalled.

Wehmeyer left, but circled back twice.

The officer knew McDonough, the vicar general, as the person at the archdiocese who handled clergy sex cases. Although the officer hadn't seen Wehmeyer breaking the law, he wanted to warn the church.

"They would have other little pieces that I wouldn't have, put it all together, they might be able to act on it, if they had other suspicions," he said. "It might be just enough for them to do something to prevent another child from being hurt."

He headed over to the Chancery on Summit Avenue in St. Paul to meet with McDonough. While the officer explained how he found Wehmeyer in the park, McDonough pulled out a book that looked like a yearbook for priests. "He opened it up to a page with, I don't know, 20 pictures on the page and said, 'Do you recognize anyone on this page?' And I said, 'Yeah, that's him right there,'" he said.

McDonough told the officer that the priest had already gotten in trouble for flirting with a young man at a bookstore, and that the archdiocese was "going to have a very serious follow-up and intercede … Whether it was treatment or discipline, I have no knowledge," the officer said.

That year, Flynn moved Wehmeyer to Blessed Sacrament Church in St. Paul to serve as parochial administrator.

New archbishop, same priest

Nienstedt was appointed archbishop in 2008 after Flynn retired. He hired Haselberger as the archdiocese’s chancellor for canonical affairs. She advised the archbishop on the internal laws of the Roman Catholic Church, which include specific procedures on the handling of grave sins like child sexual abuse, and ran the records department.

A few months after she arrived, Haselberger received an angry phone call from Wehmeyer, who believed he was supposed to be listed as the pastor of Blessed Sacrament, not simply as an administrator.

Haselberger opened Wehmeyer's file and realized there was no background check on the priest, even though the diocese had a policy that required background checks for all clergy.

Haselberger kept looking, and saw documents that reported Wehmeyer had a sexual addiction and the archdiocese knew about it.

She knew that Nienstedt was considering whether to promote Wehmeyer, so she sent him a memo alerting him to review the file. She also attached a copy of the earlier psychological and sexual assessment of Wehmeyer. The priest's personnel file included evidence that Wehmeyer had violated the archdiocese's code of conduct several times.

Haselberger assumed that would end Wehmeyer's career as a priest. It did not.

While she waited for a response, the archdiocese continued to receive reports on Wehmeyer — three in 2009.

In one case, a priest called to say that Wehmeyer had approached him for sex.

Someone else reported seeing Wehmeyer acting suspiciously with boys at a campground. Those were the same boys Wehmeyer was later accused of abusing, Haselberger said. The archdiocese’s child safety policy forbids priests from spending time overnight alone with a child.

Haselberger saw handwritten notes from then-Vicar General Paul Sirba about the campground complaint. Sirba called the mother of the boys and said she needed to help Wehmeyer observe appropriate boundaries, she said. Sirba, who is now the bishop of Duluth, did not return a call for comment.

Then, around midnight after his 45th birthday in September 2009, Wehmeyer drove drunk to a Kwik Trip gas station in Spring Valley and tried to pick up some teenagers. He asked one teenage boy how old he was and invited him to his campsite to celebrate his birthday.

When a sheriff’s deputy arrived, Wehmeyer pleaded with the officer not to arrest him.

"Wehmeyer stated he cannot get in trouble because he is a Catholic priest and way too many people depend on him," Fillmore County Sheriff Deputy Tim Rasmussen wrote in his report.

Rasmussen told Wehmeyer he was under arrest for drunk driving, and the priest asked to call Joseph Kueppers, a St. Paul lawyer in private practice who was one of his parishioners. Kueppers is now the top attorney for the archdiocese.

In 2010, Nienstedt appointed Wehmeyer as pastor of Blessed Sacrament and St. Thomas the Apostle, two St. Paul parishes that later merged.

Haselberger remembers the day she learned that Wehmeyer had sexually abused boys at Blessed Sacrament. She was walking past Andrew Eisenzimmer, the archdiocese's top attorney at the time, in the Chancery hallway.

"We've got another allegation of abuse," he said.

Haselberger followed him into his office and asked for the name of the priest.


"But I warned them," she said.

Police investigation

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said in a statement that it immediately reported the allegations of sexual abuse by Wehmeyer to police. However, the St. Paul Police Department investigative file indicates that the archdiocese did not talk to police for several days. It also never told police about Wehmeyer's past sexual behavior.

The horrific secret began to unravel on May 31, 2012, according to the police report, when two young girls in the same family told their mother that one of their brothers might have sexually abused them. The mother didn't understand how the boy could've learned about sex already. She asked him if he'd been watching pornography.

Yes, the boy said. Wehmeyer showed it to him.

In the court records: Police found roughly 100 images of child pornography on the priest's computer. The mother confronted Wehmeyer and he denied it.

Wehmeyer then invited the mother and her son into the living room of the rectory. He said he’d caught the boy using his computer in the camper — and he asked him to confess. The boy denied it "and hung his head down" in disbelief, the police report said.

A few days later, the mother met with the Rev. John Paul Erickson at the Church of Saint Agnes and told him that she thought one of her boys had sexually abused her two younger daughters. Erickson urged her to call police. There’s no indication in the police file that Erickson called police. Minnesota law requires priests to report allegations of child abuse, unless the priest learns of the allegation during confession.

In the police report: The boy told his relative about the abuse.

The mother then talked to a relative who suggested that maybe someone had sexually abused her son. The relative came to their home and asked the boy if he wanted to talk to her about it. He "broke down crying and said yes he did," the relative later told police. One of the other brothers also talked, and they both described sexual abuse by Wehmeyer, according to the police report.

The mother called Erickson and told him about the allegations that Wehmeyer sexually abused her two boys. Erickson told the mother that he needed to report it to the archdiocese.

The mother called Erickson again on June 14. She told him that her son said Wehmeyer showed him pornography, gave him beer and cigarettes, exposed his genitals to the boy and touched the boy. Erickson told the mother she needed to report it to police.

Four days later, the mother called the director of the archdiocese's victim assistance program and scheduled a meeting for the next day. At that meeting, program director Greta Sawyer recorded an interview with the boy, before anyone who worked for the police had talked to him.

On June 20, Deacon John Vomastek, the clergy services director, emailed a St. Paul police commander in reference to the case. "The person we talked about will be relieved of duties tomorrow," Vomastek wrote.

Before police arrived, McDonough and Vomastek confronted Wehmeyer at the Blessed Sacrament rectory, according to police. McDonough took the priest's handgun and one of his computers and told Wehmeyer he needed to move out.

McDonough also told business administrator Debbie Phillips that Wehmeyer was being removed as pastor because of credible allegations of child sexual abuse. At a meeting later in the day, Phillips was told not to say anything to employees or parishioners.

That same day, Wehmeyer was getting ready to leave when Sgt. William Gillet of the St. Paul sex crimes unit showed up.

The priest's eyes were damp. "It was not watery from tears," Gillet said. "I think watery from fright."

Wehmeyer refused to answer questions. Gillet tracked Wehmeyer’s camper to a storage facility in Oakdale the next day. Gillet said he suspects Wehmeyer destroyed evidence because it was mostly empty. Police retrieved the computer and the gun from the archdiocese but didn’t get much cooperation from McDonough, who never returned the investigator’s calls, said Gillet.

In the police report: The youth group leader relayed her concerns to police.

McDonough said he doesn’t remember getting any phone calls from Gillet. "I have many, many people tell me they're calling me and they can't reach me," he said, because people forget to leave a message.

The police file suggests Wehmeyer was trying to gain access to other children. Police received a call last August from the leader of a Catholic youth group called Service to the Cross. She said Wehmeyer wanted to be the group’s spiritual director. She said she refused because she felt "uncomfortable" with him.

She told police that Wehmeyer hosted a youth group meeting at his church and brought his camper to a youth retreat in July 2011. About a year ago, she recalled, Wehmeyer said parishioners should pray for priests for "sins of sexuality."

Police said they're also investigating whether another boy was abused by Wehmeyer.

A reckoning

Haselberger said her life changed when she realized that she did not protect two children from an abusive priest.

"From the very moment, I've been asking myself, 'What else could I have done? What pressure did I not apply? Who didn’t I talk to? What on earth could have happened?'" Haselberger said.

Child sexual abuse: Get help

"It's an enormous sense of guilt, and one of the things I found so troubling in the aftermath is that from where I was standing, I was the only person experiencing it."

McDonough, now the pastor of two churches, remains a prominent, influential figure in the Twin Cities. As he looks back, he said, he wishes that Wehmeyer had never become a priest. "I have tremendous, tremendous regrets about the outcome… But I have no regrets based on the information we have."

After the arrest, Haselberger recalled that no one at the senior level at the archdiocese held meetings to talk about how the abuse happened or how to help the victims. Instead, officials focused on how to spin the story as an example of the church's quick response to allegations of sexual abuse.

"I've been asking myself, 'What else could I have done? What pressure did I not apply? Who didn't I talk to?'" - Jennifer Haselberger, former top canon lawyer for the archdiocese

"I had a hard time with that, that attitude and the desire to portray it that way, instead of to be honest," she said. "There were a lot of senior staff that should have been wearing sackcloth and ashes and praying the rosary around the Cathedral in hopes that people would forgive us for letting this happen," she said.

After Wehmeyer pleaded guilty, Haselberger said she worked around the clock reviewing court records and drafted a letter for Archbishop Nienstedt to give to the Vatican requesting that Wehmeyer be kicked out of the priesthood. Nienstedt was already going to Rome in late November, so Haselberger assumed he could carry the letter with him.

"Father [Vicar General Peter] Laird came into my office with the file that I had prepared for the archbishop and gave it to me and said, 'You're going to have to send it FedEx.' And I was like, 'What? I thought the archbishop was going to carry it.' And he said something of the extent of that he didn't want to be bothered."

Laird left for Rome the following day.

Nearly a year later, the archdiocese is still waiting for an answer from the Vatican.

Even though no one had listened to her concerns about Wehmeyer, Haselberger hoped that would change after the archdiocese learned that he had abused two children.

"The people who were making the decisions not to disclose, the people who were making the decisions to appoint him in light of all this information, that we were monitoring him but failed to notice all of these incredible things, we should all be held responsible," she said.

"And as Catholics, thankfully, even if it doesn't happen in this life, we know it will in the next. There will be a reckoning."

'I never tried to cover up abuse', Benedict says

John L Allen, Jr
National Catholic Reporter
September 24, 2013

In itself, the fact that the pope made the front page of a major newspaper Tuesday is hardly surprising. Over the last six months, the papacy has been a global phenomenon, making waves and generating interest well beyond the borders of the Catholic church. Which pope did so this time, however, is a different matter.

Instead of Francis, the newsmaker in this instance was Pope Benedict XVI, who stepped down Feb. 28 and who has stayed largely out of the spotlight ever since.

On Tuesday, however, the Italian daily La Repubblica published lengthy extracts of an 11-page letter by the 86-year-old emeritus pontiff to an Italian mathematician and philosopher named Piergiorgio Odifreddi, who had published a 2011 book challenging Benedict's take on Jesus of Nazareth titled, Dear Pope, I'm Writing You.

It was the second time in recent weeks La Repubblica published a letter from a pope to an atheist intellectual after a Sept. 11 missive from Francis to Italian journalist and leftist activist Eugenio Scalfari.

In general, Benedict thanks Odifreddi for seeking "an open dialogue" on matters of reason and faith, and for having approached his thought "in a respectful fashion, trying to do it justice," while also offering spirited defense of his views on several fronts.

Odifreddi says he received the letter Sept. 3 and waited three weeks to publish it in order to get Benedict's approval for doing so.

In terms of news value, probably the most interesting section of Benedict's letter regards the church's child sexual abuse scandals, which the pope says cause him "deep dismay."

"I never tried to cover up these things," he writes.

"That the power of evil penetrates to such a point in the interior world of the faith is, for us, a source of suffering. On the one hand we must accept that suffering, and on the other, at the same time, we must do everything possible so that such cases aren't repeated," Benedict says.

"It's also not a motive for comfort to know that, according to sociological research, the percentage of priests guilty of these crimes is no higher than in other comparable professional categories."

"In any event, one must not stubbornly present this deviance as if it were a nastiness specific to Catholicism," Benedict writes.

Overall, the letter is devoted to an unfailingly polite, though occasionally pointed, response from Benedict on several stock subjects in the exchange between believers and their atheist critics:

Whether theology can be considered a "science"
Whether empirical sciences such as biology, and even mathematics, also have their flights of fancy -- what Benedict describes as lapses into "science fiction"
The humanitarian contributions of religion, expressed in luminaries such as Francis, Vincent de Paul and Mother Teresa
How much can be known about Jesus as an historical figure
The historical-critical method of Biblical interpretation, with Benedict insisting that far from rejecting such methods, he sees them as essential so that Christianity is not merely proposing "myths using historical images"

Benedict also faults Odifreddi for proposing a "religion of mathematics" which fails to consider what he believes to be "three fundamental themes of human existence": freedom, love and evil.


read full article at National Catholic Reporter

Monday, September 23, 2013

Newark to get coadjutor archbishop

Dennis Coday
National Catholic Reporter
September 23, 2013

Pope Francis will appoint a coadjutor archbishop to the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., tomorrow to assist Archbishop John J. Myers in his ministry, NCR has learned.

Bernard A. Hebda, 54, currently bishop of Gaylord, Mich., will be named coadjutor archbishop of Newark on Tuesday, sources close to the process have told NCR.

Myers is 72 years old, putting him about three years away from mandatory retirement. He has been a bishop for 26 years and archbishop of Newark since 2001.

Newark has four auxiliary bishops, two in their 50s and two in their 70s.

It is common for bishops of large dioceses to be assisted by one or more auxiliary bishops, who generally exercise authority in the name of the local bishop over a defined territory or administrative responsibility. A coadjutor bishop is usually appointed when a current bishop needs significant help in his ministry.

A coadjutor bishop has nearly the same authority as the current diocesan bishop, and some receive special faculties with their appointment. A coadjutor bishop automatically becomes head of the diocese upon the death or retirement of the bishop of the diocese.

Unlike auxiliary bishops, coadjutors receive the title “archbishop” if they are assigned to an archdiocese.

Myers attracted extensive media attention in the spring after a local newspaper revealed that a priest, who was under court order not to minister to minors and whom Myers had installed in restrictive ministries, was helping with youth ministry in a parish in a neighboring diocese. Myers was faulted for not supervising the priest, Fr. Michael Fugee, who has since been removed from ministry and arrested for violating his court agreement.

Myers was back in the news in August with the announcement that the diocese of Peoria, Ill., had settled a case of childhood sexual abuse by a priest for $1.35 million. The case against Msgr. Thomas Maloney stemmed from the time Myers was bishop in Peoria.

Myers was appointed coadjutor bishop of Peoria, Ill., in September 1987 and became bishop of Peoria in January 1990.

The Newark archdiocese covers 511 square miles over four counties in New Jersey and has a total population of 3.08 million people, with 1.42 million, or 46 percent of them, Catholic. The archdiocese has about 600 diocesan and 160 religious priests and about 220 parishes.

Hebda was appointed bishop of Gaylord in 2009. He was ordained a priest for the Pittsburgh diocese by then Pittsburgh Bishop Donald W. Wuerl in 1989. Wuerl is now a cardinal and archbishop of Washington, D.C.

Hebda served in Rome from 1996 to 2009 at the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, now called the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, which is responsible for the interpretation of canon law. In 2003, he was named the council’s undersecretary.

While he was in Rome, Hebda served as an adjunct spiritual director at the Pontifical North American College. He also was a confessor for the postulants of the Missionaries of Charity and for the community’s sisters who worked at a home for unwed mothers.

Hebda earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., and a law degree from Columbia University in New York. He worked for a law firm for one year before entering the seminary. After his ordination, he obtained a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, also known as the Angelicum, in Rome.

While in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, he was parochial vicar at Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Ellwood City and master of ceremonies for the bishop’s office. He also served on a ministry team at Prince of Peace Parish in Pittsburgh and was director of campus ministry at Slippery Rock University. He served on the canonical advisory council, the priest council and the priest personnel board.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Archbishop of Dublin demands Irish church should deal with rogue priests, not Rome

Patrick Counihan
Irish Central
September 21, 2013

The Archbishop of Dublin has stated that the Irish church and not Rome should have dealt with the censure of five liberal priests in his jurisdiction.

Dr Martin made the remarks in response to an interview with Pope Francis by the Italian Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica.

In the interview the Pontiff criticised the excessive number of denunciations sent to Rome about priests and theologians complaining of their lack of orthodoxy.

Now Dr Martin has said the spate of censures of five Irish priests by the Vatican should have been dealt with by the Irish church instead of Rome.

The Irish Independent reports that the Pope said these conflicts over orthodoxy should be handled by local bishops’ conferences rather than the Curia.

In response Dr Martin said: “I hope that the problems and the tensions within the Irish church will be eased so that we get away from a climate of bickering into one in which we all work together.”

He also stated said he also strongly believed that these matters should always begin with the local church and where possible be resolved within the local church.

The report says that Dr Martin noted that Irish society had been through some difficult years.

He said he agreed with the Pope that the church shouldn’t be so over-concerned by just abortion, gay marriage and contraceptives.

Controversial Redemptorist priest Fr Tony Flannery, one of the five Irish priests censured by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith and threatened with excommunication over his stand on women priests and contraception, has also responded to the Pope’s interview.

He told the Irish Independent: “What the Pope said seems to amount to a fairly substantial critique of the way in which the Curia and, in particular, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith have been operating.”

The Pope said that in some cases, when Vatican Congregations are not functioning well, ‘they run the risk of becoming institutions of censorship’.

The paper says the Pope’s call for local bishops’ conferences to handle such matters could potentially be ‘good news’ for Fr Flannery and the other censured Irish priests.

Fr Flannery added: “It changes the rules of the game in the sense that it appears that the Curia has largely been taken out of the business of dealing with disciplinary matters and it has been handed back to the local church to deal with it.”

He also said there was ‘no question’ that the Pope was criticising the ‘thought police’ who spent their time reporting people to Rome.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Editorial: Are Archbishop Meyer's ears burning? Pope scolds 'obsessed' clergy

Newark Star-Ledger Editorial Board
September 19, 2013

One year ago, at the peak of the 2012 presidential election, Newark Archbishop John J. Myers issued a pastoral letter telling New Jersey Catholics they should base their vote on abortion and gay marriage.

He went on to write that those who cannot embrace his diktats on these issues — which include a majority of Catholics in America — should refrain from taking communion.

“To continue to receive Holy Communion while so dissenting would be objectively dishonest,” he wrote.

Yesterday, Pope Francis refuted that pinched and narrow view of Christ’s teachings, offering a fresh breath of tolerance and inclusion. In his first lengthy interview since taking office six months ago, the new pope said too many church officials have become “obsessed” with these issues at the expense of church teachings on poverty, peace and unconditional love of every human being. And he warned that following the path Myers has long encouraged will leave the church diminished.

“This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people,” he said. “We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity.”

The message is revolutionary. There is no change in church doctrine, no invitation to women to serve as priests, no change in Rome’s position on abortion, gay marriage or birth control. And Myers yesterday backpedaled as fast as he could, saying he was in full agreement with the pope.

But make no mistake: The pope is taking the side of dissident Catholics who want change, the kind of people who cheered the Nuns on the Bus, the group of nuns who toured the country during the 2012 campaign protesting cuts to programs that serve the poor, and promoting tolerance on social issues. It was a rebuke to men like Myers.

And it is encouraging to those who have called for Myers to resign over his serial failure to protect children from sexually abusive priests. Perhaps the new regime in Rome will take a harder line against that as well.

By now, anyone who has examined Myers’ history knows the pattern in painfully sharp relief: He heard a credible accusation against a priest. He hid that fact and protected the priest. He didn’t tell police. Even today, unlike many other bishops, he will not reveal the names of priests who have been credibly accused.

The latest flare-up came in August, when the parents of a boy who was abused by a priest under Myers’ supervision when Myers was bishop in Peoria, Ill., came to Newark to protest. Myers failed to act on complaints about the priest, who went on to abuse the child. In his deposition, Myers said the files containing the abuse allegations must have been misplaced. He knew nothing.

In April, an investigation by The Star-Ledger’s Mark Mueller revealed that Myers had allowed an abusive priest to attend youth retreats and take confessions from minors even after the diocese signed a binding agreement with Bergen County prosecutors promising to keep him away. This is a sickening pattern, and there are more examples.

But despite squandering his moral authority, Myers has resisted the many calls for his resignation.

Who knows? Perhaps this fresh air blowing from Rome will sweep him away before too long.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Pope Bluntly Faults Church’s Focus on Gays and Abortion

New York Times
September 19, 2013

Pope Francis, in the first extensive interview of his six-month-old papacy, said that the Roman Catholic Church had grown “obsessed” with preaching about abortion, gay marriage and contraception, and that he has chosen not to speak of those issues despite recriminations from some critics.

In remarkably blunt language, Francis sought to set a new tone for the church, saying it should be a “home for all” and not a “small chapel” focused on doctrine, orthodoxy and a limited agenda of moral teachings.

“It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” the pope told the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, a fellow Jesuit and editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal whose content is routinely approved by the Vatican. “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.

“We have to find a new balance,” the pope continued, “otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel.”

The interview was conducted in Italian during three meetings in August in the pope’s spartan quarters in Casa Santa Marta, the Vatican guesthouse, and translated into English by a team of translators. Francis has chosen to live at Casa Santa Marta rather than in what he said were more isolated quarters at the Apostolic Palace, home to many of his predecessors.

The interview was released simultaneously on Thursday morning by 16 Jesuit journals around the world, and includes the pope’s lengthy reflections on his identity as a Jesuit. Pope Francis personally reviewed the transcript in Italian, said the Rev. James Martin, an editor-at-large of America, the Jesuit magazine in New York. America and La Civiltà Cattolica together had asked Francis to grant the interview, which America is publishing in its magazine and as an e-book.

“Some of the things in it really surprised me,” Father Martin said. “He seems even more of a free-thinker than I thought — creative, experimental, willing to live on the margins, push boundaries back a little bit.”

The new pope’s words are likely to have repercussions in a church whose bishops and priests in many countries, including the United States, often appeared to make combating abortion, gay marriage and contraception their top public policy priorities. These teachings are “clear” to him as “a son of the church,” he said, but they have to be taught in a larger context. “The proclamation of the saving love of God comes before moral and religious imperatives.”

From the outset of his papacy in March, Francis has chosen to use the global spotlight to focus instead on the church’s mandate to serve the poor and marginalized. He has washed the feet of juvenile prisoners, visited a center for refugees and hugged disabled pilgrims at his audiences.

His pastoral presence and humble gestures have made him wildly popular, according to recent surveys. But there has been a low rumble of discontent from some Catholic advocacy groups, and even from some bishops, who have taken note of his silence on abortion and gay marriage. Earlier this month, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, R.I., told his diocesan newspaper that he was “a little bit disappointed in Pope Francis” because he had not spoken about abortion. “Many people have noticed that,” the bishop was quoted as saying.

The interview is the first time Francis has explained the reasoning behind both his actions and omissions. He also expanded on the comments he made about homosexuality in July, on an airplane returning to Rome from Rio de Janeiro, where he had celebrated World Youth Day. In a remark then that produced headlines worldwide, the new pope said, “Who am I to judge?” At the time, some questioned whether he was referring only to gays in the priesthood, but in this interview he made clear that he had been speaking of gays and lesbians in general.

“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality,” he told Father Spadaro. “I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”

The interview also serves to present the pope as a human being, who loves Mozart and Dostoevsky and his grandmother, and whose favorite film is Fellini’s “La Strada.”

The 12,000-word interview ranges widely, and may confirm what many Catholics already suspected: that the chameleon-like Francis bears little resemblance to those on the church’s theological or political right wing. He said some people had assumed he was an “ultraconservative” because of his reputation when he served as the superior of his Jesuit province in Argentina. He pointed out that he was made superior at the “crazy” young age of 36, and that his leadership style was too authoritarian.

“But I have never been a right-winger,” he said. “It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems.”

Now, Francis said, he prefers a more consultative leadership style. He has appointed an advisory group of eight cardinals, a step he said was recommended by the cardinals at the conclave that elected him. They were demanding reform of the Vatican bureaucracy, he said, adding that from the eight, “I want to see that this is a real, not ceremonial consultation.”

The pope said he has found it “amazing” to see complaints about “lack of orthodoxy” flowing into the Vatican offices in Rome from conservative Catholics around the world. They ask the Vatican to investigate or discipline their priests, bishops or nuns. Such complaints, he said, “are better dealt with locally,” or else the Vatican offices risk becoming “institutions of censorship.”

Asked what it means for him to “think with the church,” a phrase used by the Jesuit founder St. Ignatius, Francis said that it did not mean “thinking with the hierarchy of the church.”

He said he thinks of the church “as the people of God, pastors and people together.”

“The church is the totality of God’s people,” he added, a notion popularized after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, which Francis praised for making the Gospel relevant to modern life, an approach he called “absolutely irreversible.”

And while he agreed with the decision of his predecessor, Pope Benedict, to allow the broader use of the traditional Latin-language Tridentine Mass, he said that the more traditional Mass risked becoming an ideology and that he was worried about its “exploitation.” Those who seek a broad revival of the Tridentine Mass have been among Francis’s harshest critics, and those remarks are not likely to comfort them.

In contrast to Benedict, who sometimes envisioned a smaller but purer church — a “faithful fragment” — Francis envisions the church as a big tent.

“This church with which we should be thinking is the home of all, not a small chapel that can hold only a small group of selected people,” he said. “We must not reduce the bosom of the universal church to a nest protecting our mediocrity.”

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Vatican to collaborate with authorities over nuncio's alleged abuse

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
September 16, 2013

The Vatican intends to collaborate with authorities in the Dominican Republic in any investigation into alleged sexual abuse by its recalled ambassador to the country, the Vatican's spokesperson said.

Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski served as the Holy See's apostolic nuncio to the Dominican Republic from 2008 until Aug. 21, when he was removed from the post and recalled to the Vatican.

Wesolowski's being recalled and relieved of his duties does not preclude the prelate from "taking responsibility for what is eventually determined to have happened," Vatican spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi told NCR in a statement Friday.

Initially, no reason was given for Wesolowski's recall, but a television news program aired in the Dominican Republic days later alleged he had paid for sex with minors. A Dominican bishop later confirmed the nuncio's removal was related to an investigation into the sexual abuse of minors by clergy in the island nation.

On Sept. 4, the nation's attorney general said he would investigate claims of sexual abuse against the nuncio; however, it is unclear if he has legal jurisdiction over the case, since it involves a diplomatic representative.

In July, shortly before Pope Francis left Rome for the 2013 World Youth Day in Brazil, Cardinal Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez, archbishop of the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo, informed the pope of "serious accusations" against Wesolowski, Lombardi, director of the Holy See's Press Office, said in an email to NCR Friday.

"As a consequence, the Secretariat of State quickly intervened, at the beginning of August, shortly after the [pope's] return from Brazil, recalling the Nuncio and relieving him of his duties, and launching an investigation that was entrusted to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith," Lombardi said in his statement.

"In early September, the Secretariat of State declared, through the Dominican Ambassador to the Holy See, its intention to collaborate with the Dominican authorities with anything they required," Lombardi continued.

"The recalling of the Nuncio absolutely does not manifest an intent to prevent [the Nuncio] from taking responsibility for what is eventually determined to have happened."

Catholic News Service reported that López had praised Wesolowski as recently as Aug. 27, calling him a "great friend and promoter of peace."

López released a statement Sept. 5 in which he asked for forgiveness from the victims and their families.

"With humility, we recognize that we, the sons and daughters of the Catholic Church, are in the midst of a situation that concerns and embarrasses us," he said.

López called for the Dominican justice system to act "firmly and clearly. ... Anyone who has done wrong has to face the consequences of their actions."

Reform group denied seat at Archbishop Nienstedt's financial meeting

Rose French
Minneapolis Star Tribune
September 16, 2013

Archbishop John Nienstedt is expected to discuss church finances and a proposed $165 million capital campaign at a meeting with priests on Monday, and a group of Catholics calling for greater financial transparency from church leaders thinks they should be allowed in, too.

Members of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform asked to attend the Priest Finance Day at Pax Christi church in Eden Prairie but were told by Nienstedt in a letter dated Aug. 21 that the meeting is “intended to be a professional gathering for those who have been duly ordained to the Catholic priesthood.”

Robert Beutel, a St. Paul attorney and co-chair of the board of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform, said the group of lay Catholics argues that issues dealing with parish and archdiocesan finances should be open to Catholics in the pews, not just clergy.

“It’s our money,” Beutel said. “It’s like taxation without representation. … We want the lay people to be a part of all of this, the budgeting, decisionmaking, the oversight.”

During the meeting, Nienstedt is expected to address the capital campaign, proposed to be shared with parishes and other partners to raise money for Catholic schools, charities, seminarian education and preservation of the St. Paul Cathedral and the Basilica of St. Mary.

The annual Catholic Services Appeal, another major fundraiser, is also expected to be discussed, as well as lay and priest pension plans, Beutel said.

The archdiocese previously announced changes to its assessment formula, with close to one-fourth of the nearly 190 parishes seeing assessments on the collection plate and other income increase from 8 percent to up to 9 percent, while parishes with schools would see a break on payments.

Jim Accurso, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said that the meeting is private and declined to comment about it.

Formed nearly four years ago, the coalition seeks increased lay participation in the church on financial and other key matters, such as allowing for women priests and selecting bishops. Beutel says the group has no formal membership but close to 3,000 followers in Minnesota who have requested the group’s newsletters and other materials.

Beutel said Catholics are seeking greater financial transparency and accountability particularly in light of the church’s failed campaign to ban gay marriage in Minnesota. He said many Catholics are still upset with church leaders for contributing nearly $650,000 to the campaign for a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, which failed Nov. 6. Legislators went on to legalize same-sex marriage.

Transparency in churches

Charles Zech, director of the Center for the Study of Church Management at Villanova University, noted that Protestant churches tend to be more open and transparent with people in the pews, compared to the Catholic Church.

“There should be some venue for him [Nienstedt] to meet with the laity to discuss these very issues,” Zech said. “If I was the archbishop and I was hoping to raise some millions of dollars, I’m not going to do it through my priests, I’m going to do it through my laity.”

The group is expected to hold a Synod of the Baptized assembly to discuss changes they’d like to see in the church on Sept. 28 at the Mall of America Ramada in Bloomington. Previous assemblies have attracted close to 500 people.

In 2010 the archdiocese issued a statement that said it “wishes to lovingly caution those members of the faithful participating in the ‘work/study groups’ and intending to attend the synod of the potential that the issues on which CCCR will seek reform are magisterial teachings of the Church, and are therefore to be believed by divine and Catholic faith.”

Monday, September 16, 2013

Monsignori non di più?

Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB
Pray Tell
September 16, 2013

You’ve no doubt heard that Pope Francis has almost entirely stopped naming monsignors, at least until the meeting of the eight cardinals who are to discuss church reform with Francis early in October. It is not yet known whether the practice will then be continued, or possibly abolished for good.

Perhaps you didn’t realize what a political football the issue of monsignors is. After the Second Vatican Council, any number of bishops stopped nominating priests to Rome to get the honorary title. It was thought to be hierarchical, divisive, and unnecessary.

Then, more recently, some prelates have revived the practice. When Cardinal George did so in Chicago about three years ago, it was against the objection of older reform-minded priests. The Chicago Tribune reported at the time,

     In Chicago, a stigma has been attached to the title
of monsignor since Cardinal John Cody took the helm
of the local church in 1967. Priests at that time asked Cody
to refrain from asking the pope to confer the title to avoid
creating a caste system among the clergy.
Nearly three decades later, his immediate successor, Cardinal
Joseph Bernardin, continued the moratorium
after many priests… voted against reviving the honorific.

Some Chicago priests cautioned Cardinal George against reviving the practice, but to no avail. Little did they or the cardinal know that the whole thing would be up for discussion in just a few years.

* * * * *

I didn’t know any monsignors growing up – this was in the New Ulm Diocese under Bishop Raymond Lucker. Definitely not the monsignor-naming type, he.

The topic came up at table in the monastery some years ago. One monk reported that the head pastor at his childhood parish was a monsignor – and he had his own sacristy! The altar boys had to figure out who was saying Mass that day so they’d know whether to go to Monsignor’s sacristy or the Fathers’ sacristy.

One fun thing about being a Catholic, there are seemingly always yet more strange customs to come across.

* * * * *

The newly-invented custom for the newly-invented Ordinariate (for Anglicans coming into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church) is that formerly Anglican bishops are named monsignors as a recognition of their previous ministry.

Hmmm, what would they be called if monsignors are no more?? I’m sure somebody has thought about that and has an answer.

* * * * *

In Austria, (then)-monsignor Helmut Schüller is founder of the Pastors’ Initiative (Pfarrer-Initiative). This group issued the “Appeal for Disobedience” in 2011, which has since been signed by about 425 Austrian priests.

Last December, the Vatican stripped Schüller of the title of “monsignor,” presumably because of his leadership in the reformed-minded organization. He reports he was “not shaken” by the action. For the record, “he had never acquired or worn the cassock with purple-piped buttonholes and the purple silk cincture” that come with the title of monsignor.

If Francis does abolish the monsignorate, I’m sure Fr. Schüller will permit himself a good laugh. His demotion will have turn out to be a sort of harbinger of things to come! (“I was a former monsignor before you were…”)

* * * * *

If the monsignorate is abolished, I suppose current monsignori will be grandfathered in and retain their titles (and special fancy clothing) for life. Then I suppose each monsignor will have to decide whether to be addressed by his title or not, whether to wear his fancy robes or not.

There’s the example of Dan Mayall, pastor of Holy Name Cathedral, whom Cardinal George nominated to be a monsignor in 2010. “I don’t want people bowing at the ankles,” he wrote to his parishioners. “Call me Dan.”

* * * * *

I hope Francis abolishes the monsignorate. (You probably already guessed that.) But it seems hard to imagine that he really will. If he does, it will be of no little significance – not because of this issue per se, but because of what his says about Francis’ readiness to rethink all sorts of issues in the church.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Leo Cushley: O'Brien will not return to Scotland

Stephen McGinty
The Scotsman
September 15, 2013

THE Catholic Church in Scotland will slowly rebuild its reputation which has been shattered by recent scandals according to Monsignor Leo Cushley, who this week will become the new Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh.

However, the veteran Vatican diplomat who has been sent to Scotland following the resignation in disgrace of Cardinal Keith O’Brien said there will be no “quick fix”.

In an exclusive interview with Scotland on Sunday ahead of his installation at St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh on Saturday, the archbishop elect insisted the Catholic laity and the wider Scottish public can separate the crimes of paedophile monks and priests and the sins of the cardinal from the many priests who diligently serve their communities.

“I think quick solutions are not our style and I don’t think they usually fix very much anyway,” he said. “My own way will be to do it the way I have been made. I will do it quietly and patiently by building and rebuilding relationships with individuals, which will take a while. Apart from some things where we need to do some housekeeping, and housekeeping is a different matter, I think it will come through the best of what we have.

“Tweetings, and Facebook and the internet are a useful tool for getting the Gospel news out there but the thing that we are best at doing is human personal contact and it is on that level that we will live and thrive as a church or that we will not.”

Cushley also revealed that O’Brien will not be permitted to return to Scotland and is likely to spend his remaining years in exile.

The cardinal, who was forced to resign after admitting “inappropriate” behaviour with priests from his diocese and a seminarian, had hoped to eventually be permitted to retire to Dunbar in East Lothian, but Cushley said it was “quite unlikely”.

Pope Francis discussed the cardinal’s behaviour with Cushley during a meeting in the Vatican on 13 August. Although the Pope asked Cushley not to reveal the exact nature of the conversation, he said it could be characterised as resolute but compassionate: “He discussed Edinburgh and the cardinal with great clarity.”

Asked whether O’Brien might return to Scotland he said: “I think it is quite unlikely. The Gospel tells us to forgive and if we don’t then we might as well shut up shop and go home tomorrow. That is beyond question part of our attitude to what has happened. But we also have to be truthful and honest and recognise the damage that has been done and could continue to be done, and so for sake of the peace it would probably be better for him not to come back to Scotland.”

Among Cushley’s first tasks after being awarded the crook and mitre of archbishop is to find out the depth of disfunction within the diocese. He is also expected to ask those priests within the diocese who accused O’Brien if they are maintaining their own vows of celibacy.

He said: “My first priority is to get to know and appreciate the priests of the diocese and by doing that I’m going to find out quite quickly, if I do it well, what has been going on and what has been happening.

“I want to, quietly and patiently, rebuild trust within the clergy, but that does not mean that there will not be room for governance. There needs to be a new sense of direction. That is not to say there was not direction. Some things were done well, but there needs to be a renewed sense of governance in the diocese. That will not come about only through gentleness and understanding of the situation but through a certain amount of firmness and that was also something I heard in my discussion with the Holy Father.

“One word he used again and again was for me to be ‘merciful’ but to understand mercifulness in a way that it is not being soft [but] being gentle and firm.”

The 52-year-old, who was born in Airdrie, and who has spent the last 20 years working in the Vatican’s diplomatic service, is viewed as a safe pair of hands capable of steering the Catholic Church through its worst crisis in centuries.

He supports the idea of an independent inquiry into the Catholic Church’s handling of child sexual abuse cases – similar to the Nolan Inquiry which took place in England and Wales – which has been called for in the light of the recent revelations of historical abuse at a Fort Augustus boarding school in the Highlands. “In principle that sounds fine. The Nolan Inquiry was very successful and set a new bench-mark,” he said.

When Pope Francis was elected he refused to move into the grand suite of rooms at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican and has instead remained in a one-bedroomed suite at the Santa Marta Hotel in Vatican City. Cushley plans to follow his example and thinks St Bennets, the detached house in Morningside, Edinburgh, is too big for one man. He is now looking to move in an order of nuns.

“I thought it would be nice if I can find a way to turn it into a sacred, holy example of good living and Christian living,” he said. “I want to make it more useful in a Christian way.”

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Scottish parish boycotts Mass after whistleblower priest is dismissed

The Tablet
September 13, 2013

Parishioners in Scotland have boycotted Mass and withheld their offertory donations in protest at their bishop's decision to remove a priest who publicly accused another cleric of sexual abuse.

Two hundred people in the parish of St Sophia's in Galston, Ayrshire, have signed a petition accusing the Bishop of Galloway, John Cunningham, of persecuting and ostracising Fr Patrick Lawson after he issued the priest with a decree of removal last week.

Fr Lawson, who is suffering from cancer, has campaigned for nearly two decades for the Scottish hierarchy to take action against Fr Paul Moore, a retired priest who, he alleges, abused altar boys and made sexual advances towards him when he was a seminarian in the mid-1990s.

The former Bishop of Galloway, Maurice Taylor, has said that Fr Moore confessed to him that he had abused children. He was then sent to a treatment centre in Canada. He was parish priest of St Quivox church in Prestwick in 1996. However, a church spokesman this week said that Fr Moore had denied making sexual advances to Fr Lawson.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Bishops refuse to meet with silenced priests

Claire O'Sullivan
Irish Examiner
September 12, 2013

The country’s bishops refused to meet with six Irish priests silenced by the Vatican claiming their predicament was not an issue for the Irish hierarchy as the priests were members of religious orders and not diocesan priests.

Fr Tony Flannery, one of the six priests censured by Rome, has just published a book highlighting the “inhumanity” of the secret process used against him by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s watchdog on theology.

Fr Flannery, a Redemptorist, is also harshly critical of the country’s bishops saying they consistently fail to provide leadership and are incapable of standing up to clericalism in the Vatican. He says they provided no support to the six silenced priests who have suffered much private torment since taken to task by Rome.

“One of the big frustrations has been trying to deal with the bishops. Trying to deal with them is impossible, ” he said. “There is no possibility of the bishops taking a stand, the Irish Bishops Conference is a dysfunctional body and there is no real leadership. The one amongst the bishops that has the most capacity to lead is Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin but for whatever reason he has not assumed this role,” he said.

Describing the CDF’s attitude to him and its lack of due process, Fr Flannery said: “They didn’t seem to have the slightest interest in meeting me or hearing my side of the story, I was clearly of no consequence to them as a person,” he writes.

The CDF never directly dealt with Fr Flannery, using the Redemptorists’ Superior General Michael Brehl as messenger. They also ordered that their grievances with Fr Flannery, over writings in the order’s Reality Magazine that they say were contrary to the teachings of the Church, were to be kept entirely secret.

In the book, Fr Flannery says that his new insight into the workings of the Vatican has led to a “crisis of faith”, but yet he has “a great fondness for the Church” and misses saying Mass terribly.

Last night, a spokesman for the Conference of Bishops said Irish bishops have met with representatives of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP).