Thursday, October 31, 2013
Joshua J. McElwee National Catholic Reporter October 31, 2013 The Vatican has asked national bishops' conferences around the world to conduct a wide-ranging poll of Catholics asking for their opinions on church teachings on contraception, same-sex marriage and divorce. Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Vatican's Synod of Bishops, asked the conferences to distribute the poll "immediately as widely as possible to deaneries and parishes so that input from local sources can be received." The poll, which comes in a questionnaire sent to national bishops' conferences globally in preparation for a Vatican synod on the family next October, is the first time the church's central hierarchy has asked for such input from grass-roots Catholics since at least the establishment of the synod system following the Second Vatican Council. The upcoming synod, which Pope Francis announced earlier this month, is to be held Oct. 5-19, 2014, on the theme "Pastoral Challenges of the family in the context of evangelization." The questionnaire was sent Oct. 18 from Baldisseri to the presidents of the world's individual bishops' conferences. It asks the conferences to quiz their populations on topics that sometimes have sharply divided the U.S. church, like the Catholic teaching prohibiting the use of artificial contraception, the possibility of a divorced Catholic to remarry or receive Communion, and the number of young people choosing to live together before marrying. NCR obtained a copy of the letter and questionnaire. While Baldisseri asks in his letter for wide consultation on the questions, an accompanying letter sent with the U.S. version of the Vatican document does not request the American bishops undertake wide consultation in their dioceses. That accompanying letter, dated Oct. 30, is sent from Msgr. Ronny Jenkins, the general secretary of the U.S. bishops' conference, and only asks the U.S. bishops to provide their own observations. "In his correspondence, Archbishop Baldisseri requests the observations of the members of the Conference regarding the attached preparatory documents and questionnaire that will provide a basis for the preparation ... for the extraordinary synod," Jenkins writes. Helen Osman, the secretary of communications for the U.S. bishops' conference, said Thursday that Jenkins was out of the office for the day and was not available to comment on how the U.S. bishops might pursue consultation for answering the questions. In an email after initial publication of this story, Osman said the bishops will follow a “usual process” for soliciting information as “Rome asks for this kind of consultation on a regular basis.” “We [the conference] pass on to bishops what is sent to us,” wrote Osman. “They then take care of the local consultation and send the data back to us. We transmit it to the Holy See. That is why the letter says the bishops will send back observations (gathered locally).” “It will be up to each bishop to determine what would be the most useful way of gathering information to provide to Rome,” she wrote. Among topics bishops' conferences are asked in the Vatican document to question their Catholic populations about: How the church's teaching on "the value of the family" is understood today. "In those cases where the Church's teaching is known, is it accepted fully or are there difficulties in putting it into practice?" the document asks. "If so, what are they?" Whether cohabitation, the problem of divorce and remarriage, and same-sex marriages are a "pastoral reality" in their church. "Does a ministry exist to attend to these cases?" the document asks. "How is God's mercy proclaimed to separated couples and those divorced and remarried and how does the Church put into practice her support for them in their journey of faith?" How persons in same-sex marriages are treated and how children they may adopt are cared for. "What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live these types of union?" it asks. "In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?" Whether married couples have "openness" to becoming parents and whether they accept Humanae Vitae, an encyclical written by Pope Paul VI that prohibited artificial contraception use by Catholics. "Is this moral teaching accepted?" it asks. "What aspects pose the most difficulties in a large majority of couple's accepting this teaching?" In contrast to the Americans, the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales has set up an online survey that Catholics in their countries can use to respond to the Vatican questions. Baldisseri asks in his letter that the conferences respond to the questions by the end of January. Baldisseri also states that Pope Francis wants the October 2014 synod to only be the first step in evaluating these questions and that he intends to address the questions again during a planned synod in 2015 marking the 50th anniversary of the synod's establishment. The October meeting, the accompanying preparatory document states, will "define the 'status quaestionis' " while the 2015 synod will "seek working guidelines in the pastoral care of the person and the family." "Concerns which were unheard of until a few years ago have arisen today as a result of different situations, from the widespread practice of cohabitation, which does not lead to marriage … to same-sex unions between persons," the preparatory document states. Other issues specifically identified in the document as "requiring the Church's attention and pastoral care" include: Mixed or interreligious marriages; Single-parent families; Polygamy; "A culture of non-commitment and a presumption that the marriage bond can be temporary"; and "Forms of feminism hostile to the Church" "A reflection on these issues by the Synod of Bishops, in addition to it being much needed and urgent, is a dutiful expression of charity towards those entrusted to the Bishops' care and the entire human family," the document states.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Bill Tammeus National Catholic Reporter October 30, 2013 Dear Holy Father: I write as a brother in Christ to say -- in words echoing what John Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, once told Nixon in the midst of the Watergate scandal -- that there's a cancer growing on your remarkably hopeful papacy. Radically unlike Nixon's mess, this one is not of your making, but only you can fix it. You must remove Robert W. Finn as bishop of the Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., diocese. His continued presence there mocks the good-faith efforts the church is making to respond to the crisis of priests sexually abusing children. As you're aware, Finn was convicted in court of failure to report to government authorities a priest suspected of child sex abuse. It was classified as a misdemeanor, but that label belittles the magnitude of Finn's failure. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI should have told Finn to resign immediately upon conviction, if not before. His failure to do so means the ball is in your court. And the longer it stays there without your response, the more it damages the church both Finn and you love. Some people will disagree with me that Finn loves the church. If he did, they say, he'd have resigned long before now. That's hard to argue with, but I truly believe Finn erred in the way he handled the case of former priest Shawn Ratigan precisely because of Finn's love for the church. He sought to protect it so no one would know about Ratigan's indecent behavior and thus think worse of the church. It was, of course, exactly the wrong thing for Finn to do. It was an egregious error that caused widespread grief. But I believe he made that error to keep the church from additional harm. I've met Finn several times and I interviewed him in some depth when he first came to Kansas City. I see him now and then at various events and he's always been friendly toward me in public and seems an affable man. But none of this is about me, and it really isn't about Finn, either. It's about the church you have been chosen to lead, Holy Father. And it's about how to make it clear to members of your global community that church leaders understand what happened in the abuse scandal and are committed to do all you can to respond in compassion, love and justice. Compassion, love and justice require Finn's removal from office. What will you do with Finn once he leaves office? I have no idea, but it would be good if it didn't look as if you were "kicking him upstairs," as we Americans say about such people as Cardinal Bernard Law, who left the troubled Boston archdiocese and was brought to Rome. Rather, you might require Finn to take a year off for study and meditation. Then you could assign him to write his confessions and make them available to a church that is seeking to understand why so many bishops responded so badly to this abuse crisis. After that, you might just make him a doorkeeper in the Sistine Chapel. For even the psalmist said he would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God "than live comfortably in the tents of the wicked," as Psalm 84:10 puts it in the Common English Bible version. But Finn's future is not the issue, either. Rather, the issue is both responding properly to the abuse crisis and, secondarily, making sure that this scandal doesn't kneecap your pontificate, which it surely can do if Finn stays. His continued presence will be a message to the whole world that you don't care about fixing the scandal. And none of us wants to believe that of you. You have brought hope and joy to the church. And you can keep up that momentum, but not if you let Finn stay in office. Please act now. [Bill Tammeus, a Presbyterian elder and former award-winning faith columnist for The Kansas City Star, writes the daily "Faith Matters" blog for the Star's website and a monthly column for The Presbyterian Outlook. His latest book, co-authored with Rabbi Jacques Cukierkorn, is They Were Just People: Stories of Rescue in Poland During the Holocaust. Email him at email@example.com.]
The Tablet October 29, 2013 Lay ministers are increasingly leading funeral services in France as the growing shortage of priests has left fewer available to preside over the last rites. A survey for the Catholic magazine La Vie showed that 32 per cent of church funeral services are now conducted without a priest, compared to 19 per cent five years ago. In regions hardest hit by the priest shortage such as Normandy and Rhone-Alpes, lay people now lead about 45 percent of all church funerals. If a prayer service takes place outside church premises, the level of lay leadership goes up to 69 percent, the survey said. The total number of priests in France has roughly halved over the past 15 years. The survey showed that demand for religious funerals was still strong in France at 70 percent, despite the single-figure levels of regular church attendance. But civil burial rites are on the rise, up to 30 percent from 25 percent five years ago.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Madeleine Baran Minnesota Public Radio October 29, 2013 A Minnesota woman sued the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis today for allegedly failing to protect her from an abusive priest. The woman said she was sexually abused by the Rev. Robert Thurner at St. Joseph Catholic Church in West St. Paul when she was seven to eight years old. She is not named in the complaint, which was brought under a new state law that gives victims more time to sue. The full article can be read at Minnesota Public Radio . Why do these stories all sound alike with archdiocesan officials long aware and covering up for abusive priests? Just for context, click here to see a 1982 memo from then Archbishop Roach of St. Paul - Minneapolis to two high level priests, one of whom, (Fr. Carlson), is presently archbishop of St. Louis) on Fr. Thurner in question.
Alver Metalli Vatican Insider October 29, 2013
Brian Roewe National Catholic Reporter October 29, 2013 The St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese's newly appointed vicar for ministerial standards has refuted claims that the lay task force he appointed would not have the access necessary to review policies regarding clergy sex abuse allegations. On Monday evening, Minnesota Public Radio reported that a letter sent by Dominican Fr. Reginald Whitt to archdiocesan priests gave reason for concern that the Safe Environment and Ministerial Standards Task Force would not be entirely independent and have limited access to information. In the letter, dated Oct. 21, Whitt wrote: "Access to these files will be within my control, and limited only to what is necessary for the Task Force to be able to make an informed decision with respect to their policy review." That line raised suspicion about whether the task force would have the "full authority and all the resources needed to complete its work" that the archdiocese promised in announcing its formation. Whitt told NCR Tuesday that the pronouncement still stands. "I've been charged to make sure that they get everything relevant so they can accomplish the task charged to them. All I can say is I'm going to do my very best to see that this thing is done to completion and is as thorough and as deep as necessary," he said. He explained his role as supervisor of the distribution of documents and files from the chancery to the task force. Once the task force makes a request for documents to him, he said he relays that to the custodian of the files, who then copies and delivers them. "I won't even personally handle them because I want to remain agnostic about all of this until the task force makes its report to me," Whitt said. He added he does not examine the requested files, attend task force meetings, have input on their agenda or receive copies of their minutes: "They use me when they need me." In some cases, the task force can make direct requests to either the chancellor for civil affairs or the chancellor for canonical affairs. In those instances, his role becomes ensuring the files' delivery and resolving any conflicts that might arise. Whitt said it was unfair to suggest at this point a cover-up or not fully transparent investigation "when its purpose is to disclose ... what was wrong either with the policies or with the implementation of those policies over the past 20-some years." "Let them do their work," he said. The St. Thomas University professor said the use of the word "control" in his letter "probably was injudicious of me," but he said he wanted to get something out to the clergy, many of whom experienced anxiety about their right to privacy. He didn't deny he was "probably the interlocutor between the chancery and the task force," but reiterated his function is to see they get the documents necessary to conduct their review." "I'm not going to try to obstruct them. My job is to facilitate their investigation," he said. In the letter to priests, a copy of which Whitt provided to NCR, he said the task force "will review documents of the Archdiocese relating to policies and procedures for preventing, investigating and responding to sexual misconduct by clergy, and all documents relating to the protection of children, youth and vulnerable adults from such misconduct," as well as a review of "any and all issues related directly or indirectly to clergy sexual misconduct in the Archdiocese." The task force will not have access to review all clergy files, but rather, can request review of specific files to determine whether policies and procedures were followed. Whitt told NCR while the task force doesn't have "global access" to archdiocesan files, the only thing limiting access is their scope. Assignment records for priests never accused of sexual abuse, birth certificates and baptismal records are examples he gave as irrelevant to their investigation. "They have plenary authority within the area given to them, but in areas that aren't given to them, they have neither reason nor right to go into those matters," he said. When asked who determines what is off limits, Whitt said it becomes his job to weigh their information requests against their jurisdiction. "If they see something they want, I will make it my business to try to get it for them. If I think that it goes beyond the scope of their investigation, then I'll have to talk to the chair of the task force. We'll work out exactly which way to go on that," he told NCR. The archdiocese formally announced the creation of the task force Oct. 6, along with Whitt's appointment to the newly formed position of vicar for ministerial standards. Both moves came in response to a month of local media reports raising serious questions about the way it handled and responded to allegations or suspicions of clergy sexual abuse of minors. Among the task force's six members (three men and three women) are a retired police officer with background in online sex crimes involving minors, law professor, human resources director with a background investigating sexual exploitation of refugees in Africa, and psychologist who serves as president of the state's sexual abusers treatment association. Kathleen DiGiorno, an attorney and former compliance specialist with Medtronic, was named its chair. So far, the task force has only requested some documents, Whitt said, all of which they have received. "It doesn't do any good at this point to criticize them before they've actually done the work. But I trust in the integrity of their work, I trust in the integrity of the task force, and they appear to trust me, and I certainly have no intention of obstructing their investigation," he said.
Madeleine Baran Minnesota Public Radio October 29, 2013 "He needs to stand before us and explain himself," the Rev. Stephen O'Gara, pastor of the Church of the Assumption, said in a Sunday homily. "Only then will we have the respect called to his office. It's about arrogance, and we all fall victim to arrogance in some degree or in some place in our lives. But this is more. This is not some small matter. This is a big deal. It's the first time, I must say, in 69 years that I'm embarrassed to be Catholic." O'Gara's homily references the recent revelations of the handling of clergy sexual abuse allegations by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. An MPR News investigation has found Nienstedt and other church leaders failed to warn parishioners of a priest's sexual misconduct, did not turn over possible child pornography to police for nine years and gave special payments to offending priests. Many of the revelations come from former church official Jennifer Haselberger, who resigned in April after Nienstedt and others failed to follow the church's sexual abuse policies. "These are difficult days," O'Gara told parishioners. "They are hurtful and painful, and I think it's time that we come clean." A spokesman for the archdiocese was not immediately available for comment Tuesday morning. Parishioners at the downtown St. Paul church applauded O'Gara's remarks, and someone uploaded an audio recording of the homily to YouTube. Other priests have come forward in recent weeks to challenge Nienstedt's leadership. The Rev. Mike Tegeder of St. Francis Cabrini Church in Minneapolis called for Nienstedt's resignation. The Rev. Bill Deziel of the Church of St. Peter, in a church bulletin, asked for a "do-over" of archdiocesan leadership. And the Rev. Michael Anderson praised Haselberger for revealing the archdiocese's actions. "I think (Haselberger) is a heroic person who could no longer live with a duplicitous system that said publicly that it was following strict guidelines to protect children but privately withheld information and continued to move predators from parish to parish," Anderson, of the Church of St. Bernard in St. Paul, wrote in an Oct. 13 church bulletin. As the scandal stays in the news, some priests worry that parishioners will stop donating money on Sundays, which could make it difficult for struggling parishes to stay afloat. The archdiocese recently delayed a capital campaign, and earlier this year, church officials met with bankruptcy experts in anticipation of lawsuits by victims of clergy sexual abuse allowed under a new state law. The Rev. Rodger Bauman, pastor of Guardian Angels Catholic Church in Oakdale, sent a letter to parishioners this month encouraging them to continue giving to the parish. "In the wake of the terrible reports in the news, some parishioners here at Guardian Angels, and I would imagine in every parish in the Archdiocese, have expressed concern that none of their contributions to the church go to the Archdiocese," Bauman wrote. "The majority of your contributions to Guardian Angels stay right here to pay salaries, support programs and keep the doors open." Nienstedt has responded to the scandal by creating a task force to review church policies on child sexual abuse. Although the archbishop has characterized the task force as independent, its members were chosen by a priest selected by Nienstedt who will also control access to church files. "As head of this local Church, I accept responsibility for addressing the issues that have been raised and am completely committed to finding the truth and fixing the problems that exist," Nienstedt wrote in an email to MPR News on Oct. 23. "My highest priorities are to ensure the safety of our children and to restore the trust of Catholics and our clergy. I will do everything in my power to do so."
Monday, October 28, 2013
(St. Paul - Minneapolis) Task force supervisor to control group's access to clergy abuse information
Madeleine Baran Tom Scheck Minnesota Public Radio October 28, 2013 A task force created to address the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis will only have access to information provided by a church official. The task force will not investigate allegations against specific priests, and priest files will not be made public, according to an Oct. 21 letter to clergy by the Rev. Reginald Whitt. Whitt, chosen by Archbishop John Nienstedt to create the task force, will control the panel's access to information about clergy abuse. "Access to these files will be within my control, and limited only to what is necessary for the Task Force to be able to make an informed decision with respect to their policy review," he wrote. Whitt's letter appears to contradict Nienstedt's characterization of the task force as independent. It also raises the question of how the task force will be able to make fully informed decisions without access to all information. In an email to MPR News last week, Nienstedt wrote, "The Task Force will have unprecedented authority to examine any and all issues associated with clergy sexual abuse. Its findings and recommendations will be welcomed and implemented." The archdiocese responded late Monday afternoon with a statement promising the task force "will provide a truly independent analysis from a group of outside and impartial experts to help tell how we can do better." The archdiocese has been under scrutiny since September, following investigative reports by MPR News that found Nienstedt and other church leaders failed to warn parishioners of a priest's sexual misconduct, did not turn over possible child pornography to police for nine years, and gave special payments to offending priests, including pedophiles. Nienstedt created the task force in response to the investigation and growing concerns by parishioners. He said it was important that an assessment of the archdiocese's handling of clergy abuse issues be done by "an independent group so that there can be no question of the integrity of the review." The panel, he added, would have "full authority and all the resources needed to complete their work." Victims of clergy abuse have called for a grand jury investigation of the archdiocese's handling of abuse claims, arguing that recent reports show the church cannot be trusted to review its own cases. Earlier this month, St. Paul police asked anyone who has been sexually abused by a priest to contact law enforcement. Police continue to investigate the archdiocese's role in a child pornography case. In his letter to clergy, Whitt said he plans to draft a "confidentiality agreement requesting that each [task force] member acknowledge that they are prohibited from divulging or making any use, in any venue, or for any purpose, of any information relating to individual priests they obtain during the course of their work as members of the task force." Whitt attempted to alleviate concerns among some priests that their personnel files will become public. "I understand that many of you may be anxious about your right to privacy and a good reputation," he wrote. The letter details a complicated process involving three separate committees, none of which will have access to all information or be able to enact any new policies without Nienstedt's approval. It is unclear whether the mission of these three committees is any different from church policies already in place. The archdiocese has had a written policy for handling clergy sexual abuse since at least 1986, and the Vatican has its own detailed process for handling complaints. Nienstedt said last week that some church officials may not have followed its policies. The two new committees detailed by Whitt are called the Safe Environment and Ministerial Standards Task Force and the Ministerial Standards Board. Whitt's letter also references a revised Clergy Review Board, but it is unclear how the board has been revised. The Clergy Review Board already is supposed to serve as an advisor to the archbishop on sexual misconduct. The archdiocese this afternoon said the Clergy Review Board will now focus only on clergy sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults rather than "the full spectrum of clergy misconduct" and that the Ministerial Standards Board will deal with all other issues. The committees are separate from Nienstedt's announcement last week that he will hire an outside firm to "review all clergy files." It is unclear why the archdiocese has created four separate entities. Whitt said he will publish the findings and recommendations of the task force and will implement the recommendations. A spokesperson for the archdiocese previously said there is no timeline for when the report will be completed, and the archdiocese has not decided which firm to hire.
Friday, October 25, 2013
GLENN E. RICE The Kansas City Star October 25, 2013
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Carol J. Williams Los Angeles Times October 23, 2013 The spending scandal has rocked the German government as well as the church hierarchy, as German churchgoers are compelled to pay a tax to the state that is used to cover government-administrated religious expenses. Berlin collects more than $6 billion a year for the Catholic Church from those who identify themselves as church members on their tax forms. A significant number have struck their names from the Catholic registry in recent years, though, in protest of the worldwide clergy sexual scandal. German church leaders welcomed the decision to remove Tebartz-van Elst, some indicating that they didn't expect him to return to his bishopric in Limburg, about 50 miles northwest of Frankfurt. "Pope Francis' decision offers the chance of a first step toward a new beginning in the Limburg diocese, because the situation has become an increasing burden for the faithful there, and in all of Germany, over recent weeks," Alois Glueck, head of the Central Committee of German Catholics lay organization, told the German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle. Der Spiegel magazine, whose report on the India trip headlined "First Class to the Slums" prompted Tebartz-van Elst to sue the publication, noted in its most recent edition that the bishop now faces charges of making false statements in affidavits filed with a Hamburg court. Theological scholars say the bishop's suspension will send shockwaves through the church hierarchy and underscore Francis' message that the clergy, who have traditionally maintained social distance from the laity, are to present a more humble profile to their parishioners. "In many parts of Asia and Africa, Catholic bishops live lifestyles of great luxury while the laity live in poverty. Catholic bishops often have cars and drivers, air-conditioned homes and servants," Mathew Schmalz, a religious studies professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Worchester, Mass., said in an interview. "What we might be seeing now is the beginning of a move not only to discipline bishops who live in luxury but to divest the Catholic Church of its wealth." In an in-depth account of what it termed Tebartz-van Elst's "prayers to riches" scandal, the Irish Times said the controversy is "casting a critical spotlight on the German Catholic Church and asking if its considerable wealth is compatible with the policies of the new pope." Schmalz says the faithful can conclude from the bishop's fate that "Pope Francis says what he means, and means what he says, when he talks about Catholicism becoming a 'church of the poor.'"
Mark Silk Spiritual Politics October 23, 2013 There’s no doubt that the profligate lifestyle of the Bishop of Limburg, Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, stinks like the local cheese. One can hope that Pope Francis has exiled him him from his palatial residence to contemplate his behavior in a monastic cell with a hard cot, a diet of bread and legumes, and the bathroom down the hall. But what Americans would do well to contemplate in this case of episcopal discipline is the criticism that the head of the German bishops conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, has leveled at his colleague. Zollitsch said that Tebartz-van Elst had created credibility problems for the church. The “decisive” turning point came, he said, when the public prosecutor asked the court to fine the bishop for falsely testifying in a related case. He announced the creation of a church commission to investigate, and said it would do its work “quickly and carefully.” Compare that to the response of the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, to misbehavior by his colleagues. Not a peep when Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City is convicted of the crime of covering up a suspected case of child abuse. Not a peep when Archbishop Robert Myers of Newark is revealed to have failed to follow his agreement with the court on the handling of an abusive priest. Not a peep when it comes to light that Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis has been covering up abuse cases. In St. Paul, one priest took to the pages of his parish bulletin this week to call for Nienstedt’s departure in an essay titled “Our Troubled Archdiocese; Restoring Credibility.” “Things can’t seem to be more twisted and out of hand,” wrote Father Bill Deziel. “It leaves us all crying foul and I share the frustration and outrage that many of you have expressed.” Cardinal Dolan & Co., not so much.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Deutsche Welle October 23, 2013 Pope Francis announced he would remove Bishop of Limburg Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst from his position for the time being, according to a Vatican statement on Wednesday. The decision came two days after the pontiff held a private audience with Tebartz-van Elst. The pontiff had chosen to suspend Tebartz-van Elst because he "could not [carry out his duties] at the current time," given the controversy surrounding his costly renovation project, the Vatican statement said. Vicar general Wolfgang Rösch from the neighboring city of Wiesbaden was named as the temporary caretaker for the bishop of Limburg's diocese. Rösch had already been selected to become Limburg's vicar general beginning January 2014. It was not immediately clear how long the German bishop would be suspended. German daily newspaper "Bild" reported on Wednesday that the suspension was expected to last two to three months. There was no immediate comment from the bishop. The 'luxury' bishop Tebartz-van Elst, 53, this month announced the costs for the renovation of his new residence and offices would be 31 million euros, far beyond the original estimate of 5.5 million euros. The scandal over the possible misuse of Church funds has drawn criticism in Germany, where parish funds comes not only from donations, but also from a special "church tax" paid by registered parishioners to their respective denominations. The surprising cost of the renovation projects prompted calls for his resignation by German Catholics. A separate scandal had also drawn attention to the bishop around the same time involving a trip to India where he visited impoverished communities. He had denied claims by the German news magazine Der Spiegel that he had flown first-class. The Hamburg prosecutor subsequently issued an indictment against him for allegedly submitting false affidavits. Tebartz-van Elst has defended the costs, citing the breadth of the project as the main reason for the exorbitant bill.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Pastor calls for 'fresh start in leadership' for Catholic archdiocese (St. Paul-Minneapolis) over sex abuse cases
Beth Hawkins MinnPost October 22, 2013 The pastor of a large, conservative North St. Paul Catholic parish has called for “a fresh start in leadership” in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in the wake of recent revelations about the scope and severity of sex abuses cases here. “These accounts of priest abuse, and misconduct are disturbing, yet even more disturbing to many of the faithful is the apparent lack of good judgment and common sense on the part of our archdiocesan leaders to deal with the offending priests,” Father Bill Deziel wrote Sunday in the parish weekly bulletin (PDF). “Things can’t seem to be more twisted and out of hand,” he added. “It leaves us all crying foul and I share the frustration and outrage that many of you have expressed.” The archdiocese, asked about Deziel's comments, said it was unable to comment immediately on the matter. Deziel also did not immediately respond to an interview request from MinnPost, but several parishioners at the Church of St. Peter said they applauded the strongly worded letter and sermons in which the abuse scandal was also mentioned. “All I can say is I think he hit the nail on the head,” said Bill Sonntag, a member of both St. Peter and St. Pius in White Bear Lake. “I feel an absolute sadness that he has that this is going on.” Pastor calls for release of list Deziel also called for the release of the list of 33 priests the archdiocese believes have been credibly accused of sexually abusing children. “If it is not, it leaves all of us wondering who these men are, and which priests may be threats to our children and young people,” he wrote. “Other dioceses including Chicago, Los Angeles, Tucson and Baltimore have done this and it’s time for us to do so as well.” The pastor also asked for the opening of a “vault” in the chancery offices that contains files on priests. “All of the files should be examined by competent independent authorities who can make decisions as to which files contain potentially criminal behavior and which do not,” Deziel wrote. “The findings of this investigation should be made public and charges filed if necessary.” Acknowledging that he was calling for “dramatic” steps, Deziel cautioned that without fundamental change the archdiocese might be considered “downright bankrupt” for years. “Third,” he wrote, “it may be time for a do over with our archdiocesan leadership. This is not to say that our leaders have not done their best to serve us in these matters and others. They have served admirably in many powerful ways, but when things get this bad, sometimes a fresh start is needed for all involved. A fresh start in leadership could get us moving forward again with all that Christ calls us to do.” “I’m glad he said something — it’s the elephant in the room,” said parishioner Sonntag. “There are definitely more empty pews and I think it’s because people lose faith in [church] leadership and they stop going.” Range of reactions Sonntag was one of two parish members who said they feel terrible for clergy who are not involved in the scandal but who likely feel tarnished nonetheless. “It’s got to be hard to be a man of the cloth with this going on,” said Marv Koppen, another parish member. “The vast majority are really good people.” Not every parishioner agrees with the pastor's comments. One man who asked not to be named because of the issue's divisive nature, said, “I think he went a little too far. No one was overly upset, but it was definitely a topic of discussion after mass.” Like many, he waited until after services to share his thoughts with Deziel. He was concerned, he said in an interview Monday, that some of the allegations circulating in recent news accounts may be inflated or exaggerated. He said he knew one of the accused and doubts the claims. Since the weekend, Deziel's comments have gone viral among Catholics who have been critical of the archdiocese’s policies in a number of arenas. Several who contacted MinnPost were careful to point out that while Deziel’s reputation is that of a middle-of-the-road straight shooter, St. Peter is generally regarded as a conservative parish. The church’s website still contains a Marriage and Family Committee page urging the faithful to vote in favor of the proposed 2012 constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Audio of an appearance by University of St. Thomas law professor Teresa Collett, who spoke widely in favor of the amendment, is still available. “I think it’s wonderful that he spoke up,” said Bob Duetel, a member of the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform. “I think it’s pretty bold. I hope more of his brother priests speak up.” The missive makes Deziel the second priest in the archdiocese to call for Archbishop John Nienstedt’s resignation. The first, the controversial and outspoken Michael Tegeder, called for Nienstedt to step down last year during the church’s campaign in favor of a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
JUDY L. THOMAS The Kansas City Star October 22, 2013 A Kansas City priest who has been the subject of numerous sexual abuse lawsuits — including one settled this year for more than $2 million — has died.
Monday, October 21, 2013
Domenico Agasso Jr. Vatican Insider October 2013 “Catholics and Lutherans can ask forgiveness for the harm they have caused one another and for their offenses committed in the sight of God,” Francis said during this morning’s audience with the delegation of the Lutheran World Federation and representatives of the Lutheran-Catholic Commission on Unity. The Pope’s meeting with Bishop Munib Younan, the Federation’s president and its secretary, Martin Junge, follows on from the “very cordial and pleasant meeting” which took place during the inaugural celebration of Francis ministry as the Bishop of Rome. “It is with a sense of profound gratitude to our Lord Jesus Christ that I think of the many advances made in relations between Lutherans and Catholics in these past decades, not only through theological dialogue, but also through fraternal cooperation in a variety of pastoral settings, and above all, in the commitment to progress in spiritual ecumenism. In a certain sense, this last area constitutes the soul of our journey towards full communion, and permits us even now a foretaste of its results, however imperfect. In the measure in which we draw closer to our Lord Jesus Christ in humility of spirit, we are certain to draw closer to one another. And, in the measure in which we ask the Lord for the gift of unity, we are sure that he will take us by the hand and be our guide,” Francis said. “This year, as a result of a now fifty year old theological dialogue and with a view to the commemoration of the five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation, the text of the Lutheran-Catholic Commission on Unity was published, with the significant title: From Conflict to Communion. Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017. I believe that it is truly important for everyone to confront in dialogue the historical reality of the Reformation, its consequences and the responses it elicited,” Francis continued. “Catholics and Lutherans can ask forgiveness for the harm they have caused one another and for their offenses committed in the sight of God. Together we can rejoice in the longing for unity which the Lord has awakened in our hearts, and which makes us look with hope to the future.” “I am certain,” Francis went on to say, “that we will continue our journey of dialogue and of communion, addressing fundamental questions as well as differences in the fields of anthropology and ethics. Certainly, there is no lack of difficulties, and none will lack in the future. They will continue to require patience, dialogue and mutual understanding. But we must not be afraid! We know well – as Benedict XVI often reminded us – that unity is not primarily the fruit of our labours, but the working of the Holy Spirit, to whom we must open our hearts in faith, so that he will lead us along the paths of reconciliation and communion.” Finally, Francis quoted the Blessed John Paul II’s question: “How can we proclaim the Gospel of reconciliation without at the same time being committed to working for reconciliation between Christians?” (Ut Unum Sint, 98). “May the faithful and constant prayer of our communities sustain theological dialogue, the renewal of life and the conversion of hearts, so that, with the Triune God, we will be able to journey together toward the fulfilment of Jesus’ desire that all may be one,” Francis prayed.
Joshua J. McElwee National Catholic Reporter Oct. 21, 2013 A well-known Swiss religion magazine is circulating a petition for Pope Francis to begin appointing women as cardinals and has attracted signatures of a number of European theologians and women religious. The petition , found in the Sept. 12 edition of the journal aufbruch, says that "more than half of the Church's members are women but this majority is being treated as if it were a minority." While women work in all fields of the church, the petition states, "they are not taken into account when important decisions are made, so that there exists much inequality and injustice in the Catholic Church." "Given Jesus's message of justice, we would like to suggest to invite an appropriate number of women to become cardinals," states the petition, which has drawn more than 860 signatures. "Neither the Bible nor tradition nor the official teaching of the Church contain any argument that might prevent the Pope to put this suggestion as soon as possible into practice." Among the petition's more notable signatories: Benedictine Sr. Irene Gassman, the prioress of a Benedictine monastery in Zurich; Maaike de Haardt, a theologian at Tilburg University in the Netherlands; and Benedictine Sr. Teresa Forcades, a Spanish medical doctor known for her social activism and criticism of the structure of the church's hierarchy. Publication of the petition comes as many are wondering if the pope, who has said the church must develop a wider theology of women, is actively considering appointing female cardinals as one of his reforms of the church's structure. 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. For the petition writers, appointing women as cardinals is a step to show "that the Catholic Church is not as hostile to women as is sometimes claimed." "If the responsible leaders of the Church cannot overcome the patriarchal attitudes enshrined in the theory and practice of the Church, and do not give women the opportunity to have a say in all important matters, the Church will increasingly lose more and more competent and highly committed women as members," they state.
Saturday, October 19, 2013
Madeleine Baran Minnesota Public Radio October 19, 2013 Former Archbishop Harry Flynn has resigned from the board of trustees at the University of St. Thomas amid a growing clergy sexual abuse scandal. His departure comes less than two weeks after the resignation of another church leader, former vicar general Kevin McDonough. Flynn oversaw the handling of sexual misconduct cases from 1995 to 2008 as the leader of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. An MPR News investigation found Flynn kept the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer in ministry despite Wehmeyer's sexual addiction and sexual misconduct. Wehmeyer is now in prison for sexually abusing two children and possessing child pornography. Flynn also failed to tell police about a church investigation that found "borderline illegal" pornography on a priest's computer in 2004, and he approved extra payments to priests who sexually abused children. The University of St. Thomas announced Flynn's departure from the board in a news release late Saturday afternoon. It said Flynn resigned on Oct. 17 - the day of the installation of the new president of St. Thomas, Julie Sullivan. Flynn served as board chair since 1995. His former top deputy, McDonough, had served on the board since 1991 and resigned Oct. 4. McDonough also resigned from the advisory boards for the School of Law and the Center for Catholic Studies at St. Thomas, according to the statement released Saturday. The board elected Michael Dougherty as interim chair and John M. Morrison as interim vice chair. "On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to thank Archbishop Flynn for his many years of dedicated service to the board and to the university," Dougherty said in a statement. The University of St. Thomas has "retained outside counsel to lead an independent investigation of matters related to clergy sexual abuse allegations that impact the university," the statement said. The board has also appointed a "special committee to oversee the investigation and to review findings and recommendations." University president Julie Sullivan declined interview requests this week. MPR News reported Friday that the University of St. Thomas did not follow recommended restrictions on a priest and professor, the Rev. Michael Keating, accused of sexual abuse in 2006. Parents of a girl who says she was sexually abused by Keating in the late 1990s notified McDonough in 2006. The archdiocese's clergy review board investigated and concluded in November 2007 that there was insufficient evidence of child sexual abuse. Nonetheless, it recommended to Flynn that Keating not be allowed to mentor teenagers and young adults. Keating's teaching of young adults at the university indicates that the board's recommendation was not followed. It's unclear whether Flynn rejected the recommendation and never passed it along to the university or if university officials knew of the recommendation and disregarded it. In a March 13, 2008 memo obtained by MPR News, McDonough told Flynn that he would inform Don Briel, the university's director of the Center for Catholic Studies, of the conclusion of the Keating investigation. "To the extent that others in the University have to be notified, we should see to that as well," McDonough wrote. Reached at his office earlier this week, Briel wouldn't say whether he knew of the allegations. Keating, who was sued by the alleged victim Monday, is on leave. He has not responded to interview requests, and his attorney, Fred Bruno, has denied the allegations.
PHOEBE NATANSON ABC News ROME Oct. 15, 2013 Priebke was reviled in Italy for carrying out the massacre of 335 Italian civilians, including 57 Jews, in 1944 at the Ardeatine Caves in Rome. The slaughter was in retaliation for the killing of 33 German soldiers by resistance forces in the center of Rome during World War II. The funeral came on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day in Italy on Wednesday. This year, the date will mark the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Roman Jews in 1943, many of whom died in Nazi concentration camps. The Rome Vicariate, which overseas churches in the city and province, promptly announced in a statement soon after Priebke's death that no public funeral would be granted to him in the city or outskirts of Rome. Officials cited canon law which states that a funeral may be denied to "manifest sinners who cannot be granted ecclesiastical funerals without public scandal of the faithful." But a splinter group of Catholic priests called the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) who object to the Vatican's outreach to Jews and other reforms agreed to hold Priebke's funeral at the chapel of their institute at Albano Laziale. As the hearse bringing the coffin arrived outside the society's church, people in the crowd slammed their fists and umbrellas on the car and shouted "We are all anti-fascist!" and "Priebke, murderer!" the Associated Press reported. Priebke was living openly after the war in Argentina until ABC NEW's Sam Donaldson tracked him down on the street of the town of Bariloche in 1994 and asked him about the massacre at the Ardeatine Caves. Priebke's casual admittance to taking part in the slaughter and dismissal of his responsibilities caused shock and an indignant response around the world. He was extradited to Italy soon afterwards. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1998 by an Italian military court, but allowed to serve the last 17 years under house arrest. Priebke continues to incite anger and protests even in death. Anti and pro-Priebke graffiti has appeared in Rome. The tenor rose when his lawyer released a video and a seven page written message Priebke had left as "testament" in which he denied the Holocaust and the Nazi gas chambers and again showed no remorse for his actions. While the funeral has been settled, the internment of his ashes is not.. Argentina, his home for 50 years after the war, has said they do not want him. His birthplace outside of Berlin, Hennigsdord, say there is no room for him in the cemetery. Rome's Mayor Ignazio Marino said it would be an offense to Romans if he were buried in a Roman cemetery. Some have suggested he could be buried at the German military cemetery in Pomezia, south of Rome, but the town's mayor quickly ruled this out. "The Pomezia German cemetery is only for Germans who died in the war. Criminals from the Nazi regime are an indelible mark of our history, and those who committed such crimes must be tried and then cancelled from our collective memory. Pomezia will never accept any of them," the mayor said. Priebke's son, Jorge, who still lives in Argentina, is quoted in the Italian media saying what happened to his father "an injustice" and said that "the trial against my father was all invented by the Jews." He will not attend the funeral wherever they take place. "Apart from the fact that I have health problems, we do not have the money for a ticket. I receive a minimum pension in Argentina, " he said
John L. Allen, Jr. National Catholic Reporter October 18, 2013 Over the centuries, the first tremors of earthquakes in Catholicism often have been felt in Germany. That nation gave birth to the Protestant Reformation, and it was also where the theological energies that erupted in the Second Vatican Council began to swirl. Ralph Wiltgen captured the second point in the title of his famous 1967 history of Vatican II, The Rhine Flows into the Tiber. Given that history, it's worth casting an eye on Germany these days to track the fallout of the "Francis effect." Two recent storylines are intriguing in that regard. First, the Freiburg archdiocese recently issued a 14-page pastoral manual outlining circumstances under which divorced and civilly remarried Catholics might be readmitted to the sacraments, including Communion. That move compelled the Vatican to issue an Oct. 8 statement urging church leaders to wait for reforms to be adopted in Rome before implementing them on the ground. Second, Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg is currently basking in global celebrity as the "bling bishop" because of widely circulated accounts of how much he's spent on remodeling his residence -- $42 million in all, including almost $22,000 for a bathtub. Francis dispatched an investigator to Limburg in September, and this week, Tebartz-van Elst was in Rome for meetings while calls for his resignation mount. (Proving he's not completely tone deaf, the bishop took the budget carrier Ryanair for the trip.) If these are early warning signs of something bigger, what might it be? In the case of Freiburg, it's the danger of expectations. Catholics of a certain age will recall the atmosphere back in 1963, when John XXIII created a commission to study birth control that continued under Paul VI. The takeaway was that the church was on the brink of changing its teaching, so much so that people remember priests saying from the pulpit they no longer needed to confess using contraception because all that was about to disappear. Of course, Paul VI eventually affirmed the traditional ban with Humanae Vitae. Wherever one stands on the merits of the encyclical, there's no denying that people hoping for change were massively disappointed, and the fault lines that opened up scarred Paul's papacy from that point forward. Similarly today, Francis has created palpable expectations of change in the rules regarding divorced and remarried Catholics. Once again, there's a widespread sense that it's only a matter of time, and Freiburg illustrates the understandable temptation to jump the gun. If the pope's already signaled where we're going, many people may conclude, what's the point in waiting around? None of this is especially troubling if Francis already has made up his mind. But if he hasn't -- for instance, if he's open to the possibility that next October's Synod of Bishops might nudge him in a different direction -- Freiburg offers a useful prompt that it might be a good idea to say so out loud. As for Limburg, it illustrates a striking feature of Francis' management style that we might dub "leadership by shaming." It's not clear if Francis will impose discipline on Tebartz-van Elst by removing him from office or naming a papal delegate to administer some aspects of the diocese, including its finances. In some ways, however, all that may be superfluous, because he's already brought a hammer down simply by offering such an unmistakably different vision of what leadership in the church is supposed to look like. As a thought experiment, ponder whether this story would have become a cause célèbre during the Benedict years. I suspect the answer is no, because what makes it so jarring, and so irresistible from a media point of view, is the contrast between Tebartz-van Elst and his new boss. The headline has been, "This bishop didn't get the memo." Of course, Francis' embrace of simplicity arises out of his own personality and spiritual convictions. However, he's also politically savvy enough to realize that it hands a club to the world to beat up on bishops who don't follow suit. In other words, Limburg illustrates that Francis may not always need to exercise the formal powers of his office in order to turn the screws on recalcitrant middle managers. Sometimes it's enough merely to set a different example then let public opinion do the work. The Lefebvrists and a Nazi war criminal One can debate what the election of Francis means on other fronts, but there's no doubt that it heralded the closure of the window that opened under Benedict XVI for reconciliation with the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, popularly known as the Lefebvrists. Francis doesn't feel the same affection for the pre-Vatican II Latin Mass, nor the same impulse to reintegrate its devoteés. He's already taken steps that have set off shock waves in traditionalist circles, including a ban on celebration of the old Mass by the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate and replacing five consultants in the Office for the Liturgical Celebrations known for their high church tastes. Italian commentator Sandro Magister recently said Francis seems "friendly to everyone, except the traditionalists." The feeling is apparently mutual; during a stop in Kansas City, Mo., the head of the society, Bishop Bernard Fellay, reportedly described Francis as "a true modernist," understood in his circles as the ultimate in pejoratives. If that picture was already clear, it probably was set in cement this week with the fracas in Rome surrounding an effort by the Society of St. Pius X to celebrate a funeral Mass for convicted Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke, who died Oct. 11 at the age of 100. Priebke was sentenced to life imprisonment (the last part under house arrest) in Italy for the 1944 Ardeatine caves massacre in which 335 Italians, including 57 Jews, were executed in reprisal for an attack on German troops. By his own admission, Priebke personally shot two of the prisoners and supervised the deaths of the others. Priebke never expressed remorse, insisting he was following orders, and after his death his lawyer released a testament in which Priebke essentially denied the Holocaust, claiming that alleged crematoria in Nazi concentration camps were actually large kitchens for feeding inmates. (That brought a good line from Renzo Gattegna, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, speaking Wednesday at a ceremony recalling the 70th anniversary of the deportation of Roman Jews: "Yesterday, the Nazis assassinated human beings," Gattegna said. "Today they assassinate history.") The Vicariate of Rome, which runs the diocese for the pope, announced Oct. 12 it would not allow a church funeral for Priebke, who considered himself a Catholic. Enter the Society of St. Pius X, which offered to host the funeral Tuesday in one of its chapels in Albano, the hillside area outside Rome near the pope's summer residence of Castel Gandolfo. That set the scene for chaos. A small delegation of neo-Nazis traipsed out to Albano, where they were met by a large crowd of locals opposed to hosting the funeral, as well as a phalanx of police. A melee ensued, including police firing tear gas into the crowd, and in the end the car carrying Priebke's remains was forced to turn back without the funeral taking place. Two neo-Nazis were arrested in the wake of the episode. One can assume Francis is taking a personal interest in all this, in part because Priebke fled to Argentina after the war and lived comfortably in a Buenos Aires suburb for 50 years before his 1996 extradition. Granted, the decision to celebrate a funeral for Priebke came from the Italian branch of the Society of St. Pius X, not its headquarters in Écône, Switzerland. Granted, too, Fr. Pierpaolo Petrucci, the society's superior in Italy, said it "had nothing to do with politics or even with Priebke," but rather the Christian duty to send off "a dead man who during his life went to confession and received Communion." That said, for a pope who co-authored a book with a rabbi, who recently said it's impossible for a Christian to be anti-Semitic, and who may feel a bit of national shame over the fact that ex-Nazis could live so long undisturbed in his own backyard, the association of the Society of St. Pius X with the memory of Priebke may solidify his instinct that this is a window best left closed. The cold-call pope strikes again I've written before that among his many other innovations, Francis has emerged as "the cold-call pope," frequently ringing up people he's never actually met for a chat. That continued in mid-October when Francis called Andrea and Tahereh Sciarretta, a couple in the Italian city of Chieti who have a 17-month-old infant suffering from a grave spinal disorder and who had written the pope about their situation. Naturally, the Vatican doesn't announce these calls or release transcripts, in part because Francis makes them himself so his handlers don't even know they've happened until after the fact. If the world learns about the conversation, it's because the other party says something, which runs the risk that whatever the pope said may be distorted in the retelling. For instance, the Sciarrettas are currently trying to secure experimental stem cell therapy for their daughter, a procedure that has been blocked by the Italian Ministry of Health. Some news reports about the pope's phone call suggested he had expressed support for their request, even that he had promised to intervene with the Italian authorities. Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, was compelled to deny those reports "in the most absolute terms," saying the pope had indeed called the Sciarretta family to express his closeness and to promise prayer, but that he did not take any political position. The episode illustrates a deep headache facing Vatican communications personnel these days. Given Francis' free-wheeling and spontaneous style and his penchant for expressing himself outside the usual channels, how do they short-circuit confusion while not trying to tie the pope's hands -- an exercise, for anyone who knows Francis, that likely would be fruitless in any event? To some extent, Lombardi and others find themselves trapped in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" dynamic. If they try to clarify whatever Francis said, people will accuse them of editing or correcting the pope, casting them as Vatican Blue Meanies who fear losing their grasp on power, as blowback from their recent, and utterly benign, attempt to set the record straight on a point of fact from Francis' interview with Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari illustrates. On the other hand, if they stay quiet, misrepresentations may metastasize. One solution would be for Francis to make his own clarifications, given the widespread "hermeneutic of suspicion" about statements coming from anybody else. The difficulty with that, also illustrated by the Scalfari affair, is that Francis may shrink from doing so because he doesn't want to embarrass someone. (A source who spoke directly with Francis about the interview said the pope conceded Scalfari's recollections were a little "imaginative" in places, attributing it to Scalfari's advanced age.) In any event, the conundrum is unlikely to go away. It seems clear that Francis is willing to run the risk of being occasionally misunderstood as the price to be paid for not walling himself off from direct contact with the outside world. read full article at the National Catholic Reporter
Friday, October 18, 2013
Tony Kennedy Minneapolis Star Tribune October 18, 2013
Matthew Day The Telegraph (UK) October 18, 2013 The archbishop also received criticism from inside the Catholic Church. “He has a problem with accepting the fact that the issue of paedophilia in the Church may have something to do with priests and the structure of the Church,” Father Jacek Prusak, a Jesuit priest, told the TVN 24 news channel.
Monday, October 14, 2013
Grant Gallicho Commonweal October 14, 2013 it would be a good idea to stop pretending that these failures had anything to do with policy, and admit that they were entirely the fault of a culture that prized self-protection and secrecy above disclosure and, yes, justice. Is it appalling when an archbishop acknowledges to ecclesiastical authorities that one of his priests is in possession of "borderline illegal" images of children but can't work up the will to share this information with the civil authorities? Yes. Just as it's troubling that a bishop who had long won the praise of inaugural members of the USCCB National Review Board apparently promoted a priest who had no business anywhere near children, and then seemingly failed to report a priest who may have downloaded child porn--just two years after he voted to approve the very rules the bishops adopted to address the scandal. But should you be surprised that bishops who fail so miserably have underlings who have trouble reading the reddest of flags? Of course, it's not only clerics who help sustain this culture of denial. The maintenance man for the Wehmeyer's parish told the police that for two years he noticed the same boys going to and from the priest's camper. “We told [the parish’s business administrator], and she should have done something about it.” Why didn't he? No amount of "safe environment" training can fix this problem. It doesn't matter how independent a diocesan review board is on paper. Or how many laypeople have been tasked to overhaul a diocese's abuse policies. Or how sincerely a bishop promises to make room for a review board to do its work. We have seen it time and again. In Philadelphia , where the review board was seeing only the cases the archbishop decided to show them. In Kansas City-St. Joseph, where the review board wasn't informed of the child pornography on one of their priest's computers. In Newark , where a priest who admitted to groping a boy sexually was given a hospital assignment and a card proving his good standing. If a bishop decides to keep allegations to himself, he can. If he wants to sabotage strong sexual-abuse policies, he's free to do so. The only reason you're reading about any of this is because Jennifer Haselberger went public. And the only person who can act decisively to change this culture of denial lives in Rome. Do you think he's listening to MPR?