Thursday, February 27, 2014

Kensington landmark will be a monastery once more

(Followup to previous post: Traditionalist nuns greeted by Bishop of Oakland in Livermore)

Rick Radin
Contra Costa Times
February 27, 2014

A landmark structure nestled in the hills that went on the market in October has been sold for the same use it had before -- a monastery for a group of Carmelite nuns.

Repeating the process of how a Carmelite monastery became established in the building in 1949, a private donor has purchased the building to house a group of 12 Carmelites who are now residing on a ranch in Canyon, a tiny unincorporated community in the hills behind Oakland.

The incoming group of nuns are young, replacing a contingent of four older nuns, down from 12 at their peak.

Two of the older nuns moved to care facilities, and the other two relocated to a Carmelite monastery in San Francisco.

"(The new nuns) are about the same age and the same number as the nuns who came in 1949," said Michael Korman of Korman & Ng Real Estate Services in Berkeley, the agent for the seller. "Twelve is peak of population at its previous high."

The 60-room Spanish revival mansion, built in 1925, was listed for $1.95 million and sold for $1.9 million, Korman said.


The home, at 68 Rincon Road, is adjacent to the landmark Blake House, the now-empty former home of the president of the University of California, and Blake Garden, both owned and maintained by UC Berkeley.

The rooms in which the nuns reside are small. Larger rooms in the house include a former ballroom, a dining room and a kitchen with butler's pantry. Windows on the western side of the house have panoramic views of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Buyer's agent Geri Murphy said she is seeking additional donors to pay for the $400,000 to repair water leakage from the roof and fix the electrical and plumbing systems, floors and foundation.

"We will be doing some repairs to meet the needs of the community, what they want," said Murphy of Murphy & Associates Realty Group in Lafayette. "We plan to be done in about four months or less, and the nuns can move in."

An outside sale was required to transfer use of the property from one group of Carmelite nuns to another because each carmel, or sect, is a separate corporation, Murphy said.

The buyer, who wishes to remain anonymous, purchased the home from the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Berkeley and donated it to the Catholic Diocese of Oakland, which will be in charge of maintaining it in perpetuity, Murphy said.

"They are two separate entities, very independent," she said.

Bishops need not be 'guardians of doctrine', Francis says

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
February 27, 2014

Pope Francis on Thursday re-emphasized his vision of who should be chosen as Catholic bishops around the world, telling the Vatican office responsible for their selection he wants prelates who are "genuine pastors" and who will "argue with God on behalf of [their] people."

In a nearly 3,000-word text to the Vatican's Congregation for Bishops, Francis tells the office they should not look for bishops based on any "preferences, likes, or trends" and likewise should not seek prelates who are mainly concerned with doctrinal matters.

The church, writes Francis, does not need "guardians of doctrine" but those who "appeal to the world to charm it with the beauty of love [and] to seduce it with the freedom bestowed by the Gospel."

"The church does not need apologists of its causes nor crusaders of its battles, but sowers humble and confident of the truth, who ... trust of its power," the pontiff continues.

Francis' words Thursday, made during the congregation's weekly meeting, mostly reaffirm themes the pope has touched on over the past year when speaking of the role of bishops around the world.

But they are also quite direct in parts, seemingly at one point even reprimanding the congregation for its choices so far with a remark that "perhaps it is we who do not turn enough the fields to look" for the right bishops.

Under the Vatican's process for picking bishops, the papal ambassador, or nuncio, in each country is responsible for compiling a list of names of candidates, called a terna, for openings as they arise. That terna is then submitted to the Congregation for Bishops, whose members vote on the final list to be submitted to the pope.

In his text Thursday, which was released by the Vatican only in Italian, Francis invites the congregation to review the teachings of the early church to "look for some criteria" in choosing bishops.

The pope asks them particularly to consider how the apostles chose a replacement for Judas, following his betrayal of Christ.

"The bishop is first and foremost a martyr of the risen one," the pope states. "His life and his ministry must make credible the resurrection."

"The courage to die, the generosity of offering their own lives and to be consumed by the flock are inscribed in the "DNA" of the episcopate," he continues. "Renunciation and sacrifice are akin to the Episcopal mission."

The central prayer of a bishop, the pope tells the congregation, should be for the salvation of his people.

Recounting the Old Testament story of Sodom, when Abraham negotiated with God not to destroy the city if there could be ten righteous people found within its boundaries, Francis says bishops must be "courageous in intercessory prayer as Abraham."

"A man who lacks the courage to argue with God on behalf of his people can not be bishop - I say this from the heart, I am convinced," he states.

Referencing an address he gave to papal nuncios last June -- when the pontiff told them he wanted them to find bishops who are "close to the people, fathers and brothers" -- Francis states: "I repeat that the church needs genuine pastors."

Mentioning the Second Vatican Council's constitution of the church, Lumen Gentium, the pope also asks the congregation to develop a document on the need of a bishop to reside in his diocese and be near his people, perhaps even limiting his trips away.

"In this time of meetings and conferences ... it would nice if the Congregation of Bishops wrote something about this," states the pope.

"The flock need to find space in the heart of shepherd," writes the pope. If a bishop is not anchored, the pope states, the bishop "will be constantly buffeted by the waves in search of ephemeral compensation and will not offer any shelter to the flock."

Concluding his text, the pope states: "At the end of my words, I wonder: where can we find such men? It is not easy. Are there [such men]? How to select them?"

Referencing the Old Testament story of Samuel in search of a successor for Saul, the pope replies: "I am sure they are there, because the Lord does not abandon his church."

"Perhaps it is we who do not turn enough for the fields to look for them," the pope states. "Perhaps we need the warning of Samuel, "Do not sit down to eat before he comes here." "It is this holy restlessness that I would like this congregation to live."

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Cardinal Timothy Dolan on "Frontline"

Jerry Berger
St. Louis News
February 26, 2014

A PBS “Frontline” segment last night focused on the forces that led to Pope Benedict’s shocking resignation last year and the challenges facing his successor, Pope Francis, including the abuse crisis. It featured attorney Jeff Anderson and Wisconsin SNAP leaders questioning why then-Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan suddenly moved $57 million into a cemetery fund, effectively reducing to $4 million the church funds available to compensate clergy sex abuse victims. The show can be viewed at Secrets of the Vatican .

Challenge to bishop's authority viewed as a key to controversy

Dan Morris-Young
National Catholic Reporter
February 26, 2014

Baker, Ore. Bishop Liam Cary's emphasis on the vow of obedience in his May 7, 2013 open letter to St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Bend, Ore. is viewed by many as a key to Fr. James Radloff's removal as pastor.

Petitions were circulated asking the bishop to back down on plans to transfer popular Spanish-speaking priest Fr. Juan Carlos Chiarinoti, a native Argentinian. In the letter, Cary admonished parishioners and Radloff for the petition effort. He called it “out of place” and said it “thrust into public view matters that must be dealt with in private and whetted the appetite for an explanation that could not be forthcoming."

Cary also directly rebuked Radloff: "In launching this movement to pressure me to do what he wanted, your pastor made a very serious error of judgment. He actively recruited you to stand with him against your bishop. ... On the day of his ordination, a priest places his hands between those of the bishop and publicly promises 'respect and obedience' to him and his successors. ... To build up the unity of the Church, priests must be willing to walk the way of obedience; and a bishop must be able to count on his priests to be true to their promise."

In a 2007 interview then-Fr. Cary expanded on how critical it had been for him as a diocesan priest to be obedient to his ordinary.

One priest who has known the bishop “for many years” and worked with him, said Cary and Radloff's understandings of obedience and priestly ministry “are about 179 degrees apart.”

The priest — who asked not to be named — feels Cary views a diocesan cleric's core work should be carrying out the bishop's vision of ministry and parish, and that a priest is first accountable to his ordinary. Radloff operates from a mandate of “serving the people of God to the best of his ability” and that is his “first line of allegiance.”

Fr. Leo Weckerle strikes a middle ground. “I know Fr. Radloff extremely well,” he said Feb. 21. “He is an extremely hard-working priest, a great priest, although he can be somewhat precocious at times and can think with his mouth, and that can get him into trouble.”

“It would be a great shame if his talent were to be wasted,” said the retired priest who resides in the small community of Terrebonne, Ore. and who has had his own run-ins with bishops in the past.

“The bishop really is the pastor of all the people in the diocese,” added Weckerle, a former chancellor and judicial vicar of the diocese. “It is up to the priest using his knowledge gained in the seminary and in private study to put all his talents toward … carrying out the vision of the bishop. A priest cannot do his own thing outside the bishop's vision for the diocese. It is up to each one of us priests to adapt ourselves to the bishop. ….”

The bishop has spoken

In letters to the editor of Bend's major newspaper, The Bulletin, and in reader posts following NCR reports, some accuse Radloff of episcopal disobedience.

Summarizing some of these views, one parishioner told NCR: “So many Catholics here do not understand that the church is not a democracy and they certainly don't understand that we accept whatever comes our way cheerfully and with humble obedience. My comment will fall on deaf ears of those who want their way no matter what. … I would hope that they will receive the grace to forgive and just let go. That is what I am praying for. Those who have already accepted what has happened want to move on and make our parish a positive, welcoming, loving, and helpful place.”

Mentioned multiple times as “a major actor in the present drama,” in the words of one parishioner, John Henchman might echo those thoughts.

A parish council member and “longtime pillar of the parish,” in the words of another parishioner, Henchman told NCR on Feb. 8 that he did not want to comment, but he did say, “The bishop had every right to make his decision,” and indicated it should be accepted and respected.

Thirty-year parishioner Ken Roberts seems to agree: “We have no idea what prompted the decision but believe it had been brewing for quite some time and not done rashly. My take is that a lot of the people are still upset, not so much about Radloff’s removal but the manner in which it was done and the bishop’s seeming unwillingness for any kind of reconciliation or any public explanation of his decision.”

Many do not accept at face value Cary's insistence that he refuses to divulge the reasons for Radloff's removal to protect “the right to privacy of all involved parties,” as he wrote in his letter to parishioners attending Feb. 15-16 Masses.

Some say the language rings reminiscent of statements used by church officials to cover up clergy sexual abuse.

Said one parishioner, “I understand the bishop is the bishop and all that, but my generation is not going to just follow blindly.”

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Francis creates central Vatican office for economy, appoints Pell head

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
February 24, 2014

Pope Francis has approved a set of sweeping moves to reorganize the financial and administrative structures of the Catholic church's central bureaucracy, creating a new central office with wide control particularly of economic issues, the Vatican announced Monday.

Sydney Cardinal George Pell will head the new office, known as the Secretariat for the Economy. Announcing the news in a statement, the Vatican said Pell would have "authority of all the economic and administrative activity within the Holy See and the Vatican City State."

Francis' decision to reorganize the Vatican's economic and administrative structures comes after criticism in recent years that its operations, especially in financial matters, occur in secret and with little public accountability.

Last week, Francis and the Council of Cardinals met with three separate groups appointed by Francis to investigate the Vatican's various financial operations.

Monday's release states that Francis decided to create the new secretariat following a meeting with one of those groups and at the suggestion of the Council of Cardinals.

"The modifications allow more explicit involvement of high-level experts of experience in financial management, planning and reporting," the Vatican statement reads.

"They will ensure a better use of resources, improving the support available for various programs, particularly those aimed at working with the poor and marginalized," it continues.

The statement says that as the new head of the secretariat, Pell will be responsible for preparation of an annual budget for the Vatican and the Holy See, financial planning, and various support functions.

Pell is also to put into operation a new Vatican "Council for the Economy," composed of eight cardinals or bishops "that reflect the universality of the church" and seven lay experts.

The statement also says Francis will be appointing a new auditor-general for the Vatican, who will be "empowered to conduct audits of any agency of the Holy See and Vatican City State at any time."

The statement does not specifically mention the Institute for the Works of Religion, one of the Vatican institutions that has attracted the most controversy, known commonly as the Vatican bank.

The bank, which is a private entity and does not control the Vatican budget, is, however, part of the economic activity of the Vatican and covered by the pope's moves.

In a short briefing with reporters Monday, Vatican spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi said Pell, who has been Sydney's archbishop since 2001, will remain so, at least for the time being.

Asked if Pell would be moving full-time to Rome for the appointment, Lombardi said he didn't know, but added: "Probably."

Pell also serves on the Council of Cardinals. Since 2001, he has been the chair of Vox Clara, the committee of English-speaking bishops who advise the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship on English-language translations.

Francis formalized the new Vatican office Monday in a decree known as a motu proprio. He gave the decree the Latin title Fidelis dispensator et prudens, "A faithful and wise manager."

The title is taken from a passage in the Gospel according to Luke, where Jesus tells a parable of a servants who are put in charge of their masters' goods and one is disciplined after he puts the goods to bad use.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

editorial: Archbishop Michael Sheehan led Archdiocese of Santa Fe through abuse scandal

Editorial Board
Albuquerque Journal
February 22, 2014

It’s hard to believe that what became a worldwide scandal involving Roman Catholic priests accused of sexually abusing children largely got its start here in New Mexico more than two decades ago. But more than in other places, the issue has been dealt with directly and openly, and the Archdiocese of Santa Fe is stronger for it.

Credit that to Archbishop Michael Sheehan, who was placed in charge in 1993 as the scandal was unfolding. Sheehan recently announced he has submitted his letter of resignation. In July he turns 75, the age at which the church requires his offer to step down.

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe was fortunate Pope John Paul II selected a strong leader and no-nonsense cleric who dealt firmly with the problem. In a 2003 audit the archdiocese received commendations for transparency and for its programs to prevent such crimes from reoccurring. Sheehan reported then that none of the 44 credibly accused priests or deacons remained in active ministry; the archdiocese had provided counseling to 193 people; and it had paid out $30.8 million in settlements and legal fees and for victim counseling. He raised the money largely by selling church properties.

Sheehan instituted strict rules to protect children and required training for priests, deacons and volunteers; and he made sure children in Catholic schools and parish religious education classes were taught about proper interactions with priests and adults in general.

At the same time, he also focused on increasing the number of men committing to priestly vocations and expanding the number of parishes in the archdiocese.

His retirement will be a loss for the archdiocese and for New Mexico, where Sheehan has been a voice on life and social issues. He will be missed.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Serving the needy while building a retirement palace

Anderson Cooper
February 21, 2014

Pope Francis has called on his clerics to follow his example and embrace modesty. One archbishop in New Jersey is raising plenty of eyebrows as construction workers add a $500,000 addition to his already-luxe vacation home. This comes after the archdiocese was forced to close a school and cut back on some charity operations. Randi Kaye has the story.
Anderson discussed this with Charles Zech, Director of Villanova University's Center for the Management of Church studies. Also, New York Times columnist Michael Powell.
Click here to see
Anderson Cooper 360 report

Bishop Gudziak urges Europe to stop Putin

Francesca Paci
Vatican Insider
February 22, 2014

Everyone in the Maidan, Kiev’s Independence Square, knows Borys Gudziak, the president of Ukraine’s Catholic university who has knelt down a thousand times in the last weeks to pray with the rebels behind the barricades set up in a city which finds itself in the midst of an inferno.

What’s it like being in Kiev right now?

“I’m in the car, it’s hard to move and the air is so heavy. One of our professors, 29-year-old historian Bohdan Solchanyk, was just killed. The snipers got him just as the foreign affairs ministers of France, Poland and Germany were arriving in Kiev. Dozens have died and it’s not over yet. The president ignored the peaceful request for the square’s dignity for three months and now we’re at war.”

There are some who fear that Moscow may intervene after the winter Games in Sochi. Will Putin’s tanks be moving in?

“I hope not because violence would spread outside the Ukraine. But there are past cases of this, like Georgia in 2008… So I am asking Europe to speak to Putin and prevent a catastrophe.”

The clashes began in the name of Europe. Is this still the case or have things changed?

“Europe comes into it yes. But the other catalyst was a widespread discontent with a system that is corrupt beyond measure. Between 1994 and today Ukraine has lost 7 million people; 700 thousand have immigrated to Italy alone. Hopes of an orange revolution have vanished. In the past four years, corruption, decay and injustice in the country have reached an all time high. People took to the streets for Europe but what they were asking for above all was dignity and the protest was dignified and peaceful for a long time, not against someone but for something, with concerts being organised on freezing nights in the city of Kiev. Now people’s frustration is exploding because they are not being listened to.”

Some groups in Maidan square are violent. Who is the opposition and what do they want?

“Some are extremists, but there’s very few of them in comparison to the millions of Ukrainians that have taken to the streets to protest against the government. Europe needs to look past the misinformation from Moscow which makes it seem like a Neo-Nazi coup is taking place against the country’s legitimate representatives. They are telling you that Maidan square is full of Nazis but here rumours are going round about it being part of a Jewish plot. This is nonsense. Christians, Jews and Muslims have chosen to support the people against violence. Ukraine’s right-wing parties in the Maidan are more moderate than European right-wing parties like Marine Le Pen’s National Front party. I repeat: extremists are but a small minority.” What could Europe do and what can it still do?

“Pressure and sanctions are important. Europe knows the decision-makers, the government, the ministry of the interior and the police. It seemed a ceasefire had finally arrived on the weekend but in actual fact the president never really intended to reach any significant compromise, he just wanted a final solution. I think that right from the start, Yanukovich preferred Putin because by choosing Europe he would have had to introduce the reforms he didn’t want to make, starting with corruption. At the moment a solution seems impossible but I am still praying with the people of Maidan because I am part of Francis’ school of thought: a pastor must have the odour of his sheep.”

Apostolic nuncio confirms receipt of Bishop Finn appeal

Brian Roewe
National Catholic Reporter
February 22, 2014

KANSAS CITY, MO. Waiting may prove the hardest part as a petition seeking a canonical review of Bishop Robert Finn is en route to Rome. Catholics here received notification Friday from the apostolic nuncio to the U.S. that he had received and forwarded to the Vatican their formal request for a canonical penal process investigating Finn, bishop of the Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., diocese.

In his brief, two-sentence letter, dated Feb. 15, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano stated, "I acknowledge receipt of your letter of February 11, 2014 addressed to me. The correspondence which you sent has been forwarded to the Holy See."

In mid-February, the group, in tandem with Fr. Jim Connell, a retired Milwaukee priest and canon lawyer, made the appeal outlining their case that Finn violated church law by not promptly reporting suspicions of child sexual abuse by Fr. Shawn Ratigan. In such a scenario, it states, canon law gives the pope authority to investigate a prelate and, when necessary, enact a "just penalty."

Connell, a member of the victims' advocacy group Catholic Whistleblowers, told NCR Friday he was "delighted" when he found the letter in his mail.

"I am pleased that Archbishop Vigano promptly forwarded the material to the Vatican. It demonstrates that the apostolic nuncio appreciates the importance of our request of Pope Francis concerning Bishop Finn," he said.

As for the next step, Connell said all they can do is wait for the pope to act.

"What else can we do?" he said. "If we don't hear anything in a couple of months, I think it's fair game then that the nuncio hear from us."

In September, Ratigan was sentenced to 50 years in prison on child pornography charges. A year earlier, Finn was convicted of a misdemeanor in a Jackson County, Mo., courtroom and avoided a similar charge that November in nearby Clay County by agreeing to a diversion compliance agreement that includes regular meetings with the county prosecutor for five years.

Clay County Prosecutor Dan White confirmed to NCR Thursday that the bishop continues to meet with him monthly to discuss reported suspicions of alleged abuse of minors, and Finn fulfilled his commitment to meet with each of the county's parishes early on in the agreement.

"I'm happy with the open dialogue that's occurring about anything that comes to [Finn] or the diocese about something in relation to the parishes in the county," White said.

Despite those civil decisions, the appeal Vigano forwarded to the Holy See holds that the church still must address Finn's role in the Ratigan case, which has caused scandal among Kansas City Catholics that is leading people to alter their faith lives.

"Civil law has done what civil law can do. The church has done nothing in terms of calling Bishop Finn to accountability. He continues as bishop as if nothing really ever happened," Mercy Sr. Jeanne Christensen, among those behind the appeal, told local media Monday.

While Christensen and others prefer that Finn resign or is removed as bishop, the appeal offered no suggested action to Pope Francis. Instead, it limited its request that the church address the matter in some way.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Kansas city diocese settles two lawsuits involving the Rev. Shawn Ratigan

The Kansas City Star
February 21, 2014

The Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese has settled two more lawsuits totaling $1.8 million involving a priest now serving prison time for producing child pornography.

Jackson County Circuit Judge Jack Grate on Friday approved a $1.275 million settlement in a lawsuit filed by two parents on behalf of their minor daughter against the diocese, the Rev. Shawn Ratigan and Bishop Robert Finn.

And on Wednesday, Circuit Judge Jim Kanatzar approved a $525,000 settlement in a lawsuit filed last year by two parents and their minor daughter. That suit also named the diocese, Ratigan and Finn as defendants.

In addition, Grate and Kanatzar each entered a $500,000 default judgment against Ratigan, who failed to respond to the lawsuits.

The settlements bring to $3.75 million the total the diocese has paid out so far in cases involving Ratigan.

“We hope that settlements of this kind will make the diocese place the safety of children first and foremost from here on out,” said Rebecca Randles, the attorney who represented the plaintiffs in both cases.

A diocesan spokesman confirmed the settlements Friday and said they were funded by the diocese’s internal self-insurance fund and its external carrier, the National Catholic Risk Retention Group.

“We continue to pray for all those harmed by sexual abuse,” said Jack Smith, the diocese’s communications director.

The pornography scandal erupted after a computer technician discovered hundreds of lewd photos of young girls on Ratigan’s laptop in December 2010. A Jackson County judge later found Finn guilty of failing to report suspicions of child abuse to police or state child welfare authorities after the discovery of the photographs. Finn was sentenced to two years of probation for the misdemeanor.

Ratigan pleaded guilty last year to five child pornography charges and was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

The lawsuit settled Friday was filed in November 2012 in Jackson County Circuit Court. It said Ratigan engaged a girl — identified as Jane Doe 96 — in sexually explicit conduct from 2009 to 2011, when she was 10 to 12 years old.

According to the lawsuit, Ratigan took pictures of the girl in the nude as well as with her underclothes arranged to expose her naked buttocks and vaginal area. Some pictures were taken several months after the diocese discovered the photos on Ratigan’s computer, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit also said Catholic officials had been warned about Ratigan’s troubling behavior and knew of disturbing images on his laptop but failed to take immediate action.

The lawsuit settled Wednesday was filed in May 2013 in Jackson County Circuit Court. It said Ratigan took photos of the girl — identified as Jane Doe 127 — when she was 9 years old and younger in poses that displayed her underwear, buttocks and vaginal area. Some of the photos depicted her in the nude, and others showed her with underclothes arranged to expose her private parts.

Because the diocese failed to take immediate action when the troubling images were discovered, the lawsuit said, the girl continued to have contact with Ratigan and he continued to take pornographic photos of her.

The diocese settled two other lawsuits last year stemming from Ratigan’s actions. One, filed in U.S. District Court by the parents of a young northern Missouri girl, was settled in May for $600,000. The other was filed in Jackson County by a minor girl and her parents and settled in October for $1.35 million. Both named the diocese, Ratigan and Finn as defendants.

Two additional civil lawsuits involving Ratigan are pending. A seventh case, filed in U.S. District Court, was dismissed last year.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Church so poor it has to close schools, yet so rich it can build a palace

Michael Powell
New York Times
February 20, 2014

KEARNY, N.J. — Mater Dei Academy sits shuttered, blue drapes pulled across its windows, atop a hill in this working-class city. From its steps, you can peer across the mist-shrouded expanse of the Meadowlands to the distant spires of Manhattan.

For generations, this blond brick Catholic elementary school tossed a lifeline to the immigrants who, wave upon wave, washed ashore here. The Archdiocese of Newark closed it two years ago. Church officials offered deep regrets; the church’s wallet is thin to the touch these days.

“It was a loved place, that school,” said Dorothy Gawronski, a crossing guard holding a red “Stop” sign. “But the church, I don’t think it’s rich anymore.”

All of which brings me along a winding and narrow road that switches back and forth across the wooded Capoolong Creek to a splendid 8.5-acre spread in the hamlet of Pittstown. This is rural and rather affluent Hunterdon County, 49 miles from Mater Dei.

John J. Myers, the archbishop of the Newark Archdiocese, comes to this vacation home on many weekends. The 4,500-square-foot home has a handsome amoeba-shaped swimming pool out back. And as he’s 72, and retirement beckons in two years, he has renovations in mind. A small army of workers are framing a 3,000-square-foot addition.

The archbishop's 4,500-square-foot vacation home, in Pittstown, is getting a 3,000-square-foot addition.

This new wing will have an indoor exercise pool, three fireplaces and an elevator. The Star-Ledger of Newark has noted that the half-million-dollar tab for this wing does not include architects’ fees or furnishings.

There’s no need to fear for the archbishop’s bank account. The Newark Archdiocese is picking up the bill.

Jim Goodness, the spokesman for the archdiocese, has the thankless job of explaining this. “The press says it’s a hot tub; it’s a whirlpool,” he says of one of the wing’s accouterments. “He’s getting older — there are therapeutic issues.”

The proceeds from the sale of other properties owned by the archdiocese, he explained, will pay for the expansion. “It is not going to cost our parishioners anything,” he said.

I felt compelled to ask: Couldn’t this half million dollars go to, oh, more meals for the homeless? “Any extra monies will go to the diocese,” he replied.

So many leaders of the church have served it so badly for so many decades that it’s hard to keep track of their maledictions. Archbishop Myers provides one-stop shopping. He is known to insist on being addressed as “Your Grace.” And his self-regard is matched by his refusal to apologize for more or less anything.

It was revealed last year that a priest seemed to have broken his legally binding agreement with Bergen County prosecutors to never again work unsupervised with children or to minister to them so long as he remained a priest. When next found, he was involved with a youth ministry in the Newark Archdiocese.

Parishioners in Oradell, N.J., also discovered that the archdiocese had allowed a priest accused of sexual abuse to live in their parish’s rectory. A furor arose, and last summer the archbishop sat down and wrote an open letter to his flock. He conceded not a stumble. Those who claim, he wrote, that he and the church had not protected children were “simply evil, wrong, immoral and seemingly focused on their own self-aggrandizement.”

As to his critics, the archbishop accused the media of refusing to explore the “lifestyles” of the former or marginalized priests who criticize the church. “Lifestyle” is an intriguing kidney punch of a euphemism; presumably the archbishop meant “gay.”

Pope Francis offers the intriguing counterpoint here. He shed the papal palace for a modest guest apartment, and the papal Mercedes for a Ford. He speaks of a “poor church for the poor.”

“If a thought, if a desire takes you along the road of humility and abasement, of service to others, it is from Jesus,” he said last week.

Left unsaid is where the thought process leading to that palace in Hunterdon County came from.

Some months back, I attended a Mass celebrated for the Rev. John Grange. He was a plain-spoken worker priest, a man who walked with striking workers, picketed a slumlord and faced down a Bronx political boss.

When he died in October, he was laid out in a simple coffin in his beloved St. Jerome Church in the South Bronx, and every pew overflowed with Latino working men and women, their children and crying babies.

I watched those parishioners weep. And when the time came, I watched them pull out folded dollars and fill the offering plates.

That was grace.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Cardinal Mahony unlikely to face charges

Gillian Flaccus
Associated Press
February 19, 2014

The nation's largest Roman Catholic archdiocese has agreed to pay $720 million to clergy abuse victims over the past decade and released internal files that showed Cardinal Roger Mahony shielded priests and ordered a surrogate to withhold evidence from police, yet Mahony and other archdiocese leaders are unlikely to face criminal charges.

With the final $13 million settlement of existing old cases announced Wednesday, Mahony has emerged from the scandal with his reputation tarnished, but his place in the church intact - even after being publicly rebuked by his successor for internal church files showing that he and others worked to protect priests, keep parishioners in the dark and defend the church's image.

By settling the cases, the archdiocese avoids a trial in which Mahony would have been publicly questioned under oath about what plaintiffs' lawyers said was an attempt to thwart a Los Angeles police investigation.

During a deposition unsealed Wednesday, Mahony acknowledged he told an underling not to give police a list of altar boys who had worked with the Rev. Nicolas Aguilar Rivera. He testified he wasn't trying to hinder police, but didn't want the boys to be scarred by the investigation and that he felt the altar boys were too old to be potential victims of the Mexican priest.

Police later found that 25 of Aguilar Rivera's alleged victims were altar boys and the other victim was training with the priest to be one, said Anthony DeMarco, a plaintiff attorney.

It's not clear what impact Mahony's action had on the investigation, though at the time, police complained that the archdiocese wasn't fully cooperating.

Mahony, who retired as head of the archdiocese in 2011, was admonished last year by Archbishop Jose Gomez for his handling of the abuse crisis, but he has avoided criminal prosecution, despite investigations by the Los Angeles County district attorney and the U.S. attorney's office.

With only a three- to five-year period to bring obstruction of justice charges after a crime - depending on a federal or state court venue - it's unlikely he or other church administrators would face charges now for cases that date back more than a decade, said Lawrence Rosenthal, a criminal law professor at Chapman University and a former prosecutor.

In other cases, church leaders accused of shielding pedophile priests from prosecution have faced criminal charges.

Prosecutors in Philadelphia won the conviction of a monsignor after a change in state law gave prosecutors more time to file charges and seek evidence. A state appeals court last year, however, threw out the conviction and said he never should have been charged.

In Missouri, a judge found the Kansas City bishop guilty last year of failing to report child abuse to the state, making him the highest-ranking U.S. Roman Catholic official to be convicted of a crime related to the child sexual abuse scandal. He was sentenced to probation for the misdemeanor and remains head of his diocese.

A Los Angeles federal prosecutor involved in a 2009 grand jury investigation wrote that documents showed "the possibility of criminal culpability" by members of the archdiocese leadership, but a criminal conspiracy case was "more and more remote" because of the passage of time.

The newly disclosed testimony by Mahony deals mostly with Aguilar Rivera, who fled to his native Mexico in January 1988 after Mahony's top aide, Monsignor Thomas Curry, tipped him off about parent complaints and warned that the church would call police.

Aguilar Rivera, who was 46 at the time, remains a fugitive and is believed to be somewhere in Mexico.

U.S. authorities have an arrest warrant pending and could arrest him if he returns to American soil.

In the deposition taken a year ago, Mahony explained why he told Curry not to share a list of altar boys with police. Allowing police to question altar boys at the two parishes where Aguilar Rivera worked during his 10-month stint in LA "could be very traumatic to those servers to all of a sudden be sitting in front of a policeman being interrogated," the cardinal said. "And we had no suspicion at that time of any other victims and nobody among the altar servers."

He denied under questioning from plaintiff attorneys that his motivation in holding back the list was to protect the priest and delay the investigation.

J. Michael Hennigan, an attorney with the archdiocese, said Mahony was in Rome on Wednesday and was not available to comment.

Hennigan said Mahony was "very vigorous" in trying to get Aguilar Rivera brought back to the U.S. for prosecution after he fled.

Mahony wrote to his counterpart in Aguilar Rivera's diocese and urged him to contact police.

In his testimony, Mahony also defended Curry, the vicar for clergy, for telling Aguilar Rivera that the church would need to contact police and that the accused priest was "in a good deal of danger."

The complaints came in on a Friday and Curry met with the priest Saturday morning. Police weren't notified until Monday. By then, Aguilar Rivera was gone.

Mahony also testified about a 1986 letter he wrote to the director at a New Mexico center treating the Rev. Peter Garcia for pedophilia, warning that the priest couldn't return to Los Angeles in the foreseeable future.

"I believe that if Monsignor Garcia were to reappear here with the archdiocese, we might very well have some type of legal action filed in both the criminal and civil sectors," he wrote.

In his deposition, Mahony said the letter was not intended to protect Garcia from prosecution.

"Was I interested in having a big civil upset here for the archdiocese? No, I was not," he said. "But I was not encouraging him to avoid criminal prosecution."

Mahony, who turns 78 next week, has largely retreated from the public eye.

After giving his deposition last year, he traveled to Rome, where he helped elect the new pope. A month ago, he celebrated Mass with Pope Francis at the Vatican before having a private meeting with him.

Japanese bishops: Vatican mindset doesn't fit Asian church

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
February 19, 2014

Japan's bishops have publicly responded to a Vatican survey of global Catholics' views on family issues, stating bluntly that church teachings are not known in their country and the Vatican's Europe-centric view hampers efforts at evangelization in places where Catholics represent a small minority of the population.

In a sometimes pointed 15-page report issued in preparation for an October meeting of the world's bishops, known as a synod, the Japanese state the church "often falls short" by "presenting a high threshold for entry and lacking hospitality and practical kindness."

Stressing many times that Japanese Catholics represent only about 0.35 percent of the country's population and that some 76 percent of those Catholics marry non-Catholics, the Japanese ask the global church to "go beyond" a series of norms and rules that separate Catholics from one another.

"It is necessary to go beyond merely saying to men and women who do not follow Church norms that they are separated from the community and actively provide them with opportunities to encounter the Christian community," the Japanese state.

The text, released in Japanese and English and first reported by the Union of Catholic Asian News, is a summary of responses from the country's bishops and religious superiors to a Vatican questionnaire published in preparation for the October synod.

Called by Pope Francis last year, the Oct. 5-19 meeting is to focus on the theme "Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization."

Approximately 150 Catholic cardinals from around the world are converging on the Vatican this week for a meeting Thursday and Friday that is to partly focus on the preparations for the synod ahead of Saturday's consistory, a formal event at which 19 new members are to join their ranks.

Likewise, the Vatican office responsible for preparing for the synod is expected to meet Monday with its 15-member planning council to formally prepare for the event.

The Japanese responses to the wider inquiries of the questionnaire are blunt and to the point. In response to a question on how Japanese Catholics accept the church's teachings prohibiting artificial contraception, for example, the Japanese state: "Contemporary Catholics are either indifferent to or unaware of the teaching of the Church."

"Most Catholics in Japan have not heard of Humanae vitae," the Japanese state, referring to Pope Paul VI's encyclical letter banning the practice. "If they have, they probably do not make it an important part of their lives. Social and cultural values as well as financial considerations are more important."

"There is a big gap between the Vatican and reality," they continue. "Condom use is recommended in sex education classes in schools."

Responding as to whether Japanese Catholics promote so-called natural methods of birth control, the Japanese respond: "There are some attempts to introduce such practices as the Billings Method, but few people know about it. For the most part, the Church in Japan is not obsessed with sexual matters."

In response to a question on couples who live together before marriage, the Japanese say, "The pastoral practice of the Church must begin from the premise that cohabitation and civil marriage outside the church have become the norm."

"In developing a pastoral orientation, it is perhaps important to recall that the only time in the gospels that Jesus clearly encounters someone in a situation of cohabitation outside of marriage (the Samaritan woman at the well) he does not focus on it," they state. "Instead, he respectfully deals with the woman and turns her into a missionary."

The Japanese also call for a rethinking of church procedure for those seeking annulments, stating "a simplified procedure for annulments is not only needed, it is essential."

"While simplification is needed along with compliance with the legal provisions, a realistic response to the situation people actually face is essential," they state. "Simplification of the legal proceedings will be the salvation of those who are suffering."

In other areas, the Japanese respond to the questionnaire's inquiries by focusing on unique challenges faced in their country, stressing particularly a work ethic among the population that does not encourage making time for family needs and the varied problems faced by many Japanese Catholics married to non-Catholics.

To the first point, the Japanese state: "In situations where both parents work, many children return to an empty house."

"Shared meals are rare," they continue. "Consequently, there are no opportunities to share conversation. Each member of the family faces difficulties, but since there is no fellowship each is lonely and has little experience of loving or being loved."

Toward the end of their response, the Japanese ask that the church "supplement the pastoral care of people facing difficulties in their family life with a vision of the Church's teachings about marriage and the family."

Continuing, the Japanese offer a small critique of the questionnaire itself, stating it has "been developed with the mindset of Christian countries in which the entire family is Christian."

"For example, religiously mixed marriages seem to be considered a problem," they state. "However, in Japan, the overwhelming majority of marriages involve mixed religions."

"In this context, we must ask what a Christian household and family mean," they continue. "The increasing number of people who do not marry, the increase in single parent families, the situation of the elderly and the ageing of society, the problems facing the children of the elderly are all problems that face family life today that were unimagined in the past."

Stressing the traditional role family has played in their society, the Japanese state that "the Church must make use of this."

"The Church often falls short in this, presenting a high threshold for entry and lacking hospitality and practical kindness," they state. "As Hebrews 13:2 teaches us, 'Do not neglect to show hospitality, for by that means some have entertained angels without knowing it.'

"The Church must be a refuge for those worn by the journey of life, and ceremonial occasions are places where they can experience that refuge," the Japanese conclude their response.

That Vatican office for the synod, led by Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, sent the questionnaire to bishops' conferences around the world in October, asking that they distribute it "immediately as widely as possible to deaneries and parishes so that input from local sources can be received."

Asking for answers to nearly 40 inquiries, the questionnaire touches on topics that have sometimes have sharply divided the 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.

Like the Japanese, the German bishops' conference released a blunt report in response to the questionnaire, showing a clear divergence between what the church teaches on marriage, sexuality and family life and what German Catholics believe.

The Japanese survey, dated Jan. 15 and released by the Japanese bishops' conference, says the bishops sought responses to the Vatican survey from bishops and major superiors of religious men and women, which were then sent to lay and clerical experts for comment.

Recent studies have estimated there to be approximately 509,000 Catholics in Japan, which has a total population of some 128 million people.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Milwaukee archdiocese's reorganization plan shatters hope

Rev. James E. Connell
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Feb. 17, 2014

An attorney once told me that bankruptcy is about money, nothing else, just money, and I suspect the attorney is correct. The Bible teaches that the love of money is the root of all evils (1 Tim 6:10), not some evils but all evils, and I hold to the veracity of this teaching.

And the Archdiocese of Milwaukee's reorganization plan recently filed in the bankruptcy court shows a desire that no sexual abuse claimant receive money. Yes, 128 claimants in category No. 9 (statute of limitations) will be paid. But about these claims the plan states that the archdiocese has "objected to" them, yet feels that successfully objecting to the claim would require "a full trial." It's a cut-your-losses approach. It would be cheaper to pay the claimants than to pay the trial costs.

So, to the archdiocese, no claim has merit. Is this how bankruptcies work?

Here is why this reorganization plan shatters hope.

The archdiocese went to great efforts to invite into the bankruptcy process the victims/survivors of sexual abuse "by any clergy member, teacher, deacon, employee, volunteer or other person connected with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee," as was stated on the public postings about filing a claim before the Feb. 1, 2012, "bar date." No eligibility restrictions were mentioned. And when the archdiocese recently announced its reorganization plan, the role of eligibility restrictions was not discussed.

Yet, the reorganization plan clearly shows that eligibility restrictions are central to the archdiocese arguing that no claim has merit. Some of these restrictions are because the alleged abuse was by a member of a religious order or by a lay person. Other reasons for the dismissal of claims are the statute of limitations and the lack of proof that the archdiocese committed fraud.

But neither the public postings nor the Abuse Survivor Proof of Claim form stated any claim eligibility restrictions. Rather, both documents invited participation in a way that acknowledged the financial reality of the archdiocese, while also providing a gesture of hope for justice and healing.

It could be, therefore, that survivors of sexual abuse interpreted the process as one in which the Catholic Church was wanting do what is right and good, even if not required by law. The gesture by the archdiocese could have been seen to indicate that the church was willing to remedy abuse cases even if beyond the statute of limitations (truly, it's difficult for some survivors to speak up promptly) or even if there was a prior settlement (maybe it wasn't really fair) or even if the abuse was by a religious order priest (after all, they can't serve in the archdiocese without the permission of the archbishop). Indeed, the bankruptcy claims process seemed inviting, not restrictive.

Eligibility restrictions should have been stated clearly on the public postings and on the proof of claim form, as well as in the various archdiocesan communications so that survivors to whom the restrictions applied would have realized that they would not share in the bankruptcy settlement. No false hopes would have been created. Indeed, doing so would have been a humane gesture of justice.

But, to introduce these restrictions after claims had been filed with the court was disingenuous and further generates distrust of Catholic Church leaders. For some/many/all of the claimants, participation in this bankruptcy process took great courage. To be turned away now adds to trauma, not to healing.

If the dismissal of the claims has been the intention of the archdiocese all along, then shame on all involved for having raised the hopes of many people, survivors and non-survivors alike, and then shattering those hopes.

Yet, the matter rests with the bankruptcy court. And some key elements of the case are still in an appeals court process. Who knows what will happen?

For me, I hope for justice: equity for the parties that serves the common good of society.

Rev. James E. Connell is a senior priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and an advocate for victims/survivors of clergy sexual abuse.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Judge: Archbishop Nienstedt and Father McDonough must testify in church abuse case

Leslie Dyste
Pioneer Press
February 16, 2014

A Ramsey County judge ruled Sunday the Archbishop and a former Vicar General still must testify on record about how the church handled clergy sex abuse allegations.

The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis tried to get last week's ruling against Archbishop John Nienstedt and Father Kevin McDonough put on hold while it appealed. It argued the court doesn't have the authority to order them to testify.

On Sunday a judge threw out the request while also denying a request to delay the release of the names of priests accused of sexual abuse since 2004.

The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona must release those names by Tuesday.

Pope Francis on old Mass :"just a kind of fashion"

Pray Tell
February 15, 2014

Yesterday (Friday, Feb. 14), Pope Francis held an audience with the Bishops of the Czech Republic who came to Rome for their ad limina visit. In the visit, as it usually happens in such cases, other than the formal address, the Pope heard the questions and coments of the bishops.

Archbishop Jan Graubner, of Olomouc, told the Czech section of the Vatican Radio how it went:

[Abp. Jan Graubner speaks:] When we were discussing those who are fond of the ancient liturgy and wish to return to it, it was evident that the Pope speaks with great affection, attention, and sensitivity for all in order not to hurt anyone. However, he made a quite strong statement when he said that he understands when the old generation returns to what it experienced, but that he cannot understand the younger generation wishing to return to it. “When I search more thoroughly – the Pope said – I find that it is rather a kind of fashion [in Czech: 'móda', Italian 'moda']. And if it is a fashion, therefore it is a matter that does not need that much attention. It is just necessary to show some patience and kindness to people who are addicted to a certain fashion. But I consider greatly important to go deep into things, because if we do not go deep, no liturgical form, this or that one, can save us.”

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Kansas City Catholics urge Pope Francis to discipline Bishop Finn

Kansas City Star
February 15, 2014

A group of Roman Catholics based in Kansas City has taken the rare step of petitioning Pope Francis to discipline Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

The formal request, initiated by a Milwaukee priest, a nun, and about a dozen parishioners in the Kansas City area, was sent to the Vatican along with an online petition signed by more 113,000 people worldwide asking for the bishop’s removal.

Finn was convicted in 2012 on a misdemeanor charge of failing to report a priest involved in child pornography. Finn was placed on two years of court-supervised probation.

“The priest's crime that Bishop Finn concealed from civil authorities was of great magnitude,” said the Rev. James Connell, a priest and canon lawyer from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, in a letter to the pope.

“Thus, the harm done by Bishop Finn also was of great magnitude. Yet Catholic Church authorities have taken no action against Bishop Finn that would provide justice and repair scandal, and this lack of action adds to the ongoing scandal of the clergy sexual abuse crisis.”

A spokesman for Finn’s office said the diocese had received a copy of the materials, which had been sent to the Vatican’s representative in Washington, D.C., for forwarding to the pope.

“Bishop Finn has his supporters and his detractors, and people are free to have their own opinion about what happens here,” said the diocese’s communication director, Jack Smith. “The Diocese and Bishop Finn remain focused and committed to the strengthened reporting and training programs which are creating safer environments in our schools and parishes.”

But Liz Donnelly of Kansas City, one of the parishioners signing the documents, said she feels forced by the case to stop giving money to the church.

“I feel very sad about not contributing money to my parish because I love the staff and know their salaries and benefits are paid by our tithing, as are many good programs, but I could not in good conscience give money that would partially go to the Bishop who appears so removed from the people,” she wrote.

The petitioners believe the U.S. justice system did its job but the church has not.

The petition was initiated by Connell, who is part of a group of priests and nuns called the Catholic Whistleblowers. Sister Jeanne Christensen, formerly the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese’s victims assistance coordinator, was the nun who signed the letters.

Connell said canon law requires a “just penalty” for a person who through “culpable negligence” harms someone by committing or omitting his “ecclesiastical power.”

“This is quite unusual,” David Clohessy, national director of SNAP, the Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests, said of the petition.“The sad truth is that very rarely are Catholic bishops disciplined, and even more rarely do Catholic lay people initiate such requests.”

A United Nations panel this month scolded the Vatican for not holding bishops accountable when suspected of failing to report abuse. Church officials said the Vatican was discussing the issue and that the pope has formed a commission of child sexual abuse.

The petitioners’ request is tied to a case involving the Rev. Shawn Ratigan, who was found to have hundreds of pornographic pictures of young girls on his laptop. Ratigan was sentenced last year to 50 years in prison.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

In a first, judge orders St. Paul - Minneapolis archbishop to testify about clergy sex abuse

Jean Hopfensperger
Star Tribune
February 12, 2014

Archbishop John Nienstedt and former vicar general Kevin McDonough must testify under oath about how the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis responded to allegations of child sex abuse by local priests, a Ramsey County district judge ruled Tuesday.

Judge John Van de North also ordered the archdiocese to create a list of all priests accused of sexually abusing minors since 2004. The list, which must be prepared by Feb. 18, is in addition to a list of clergy accused before 2004, which was released in December and would include all priests who had been the subject of abuse complaints, not just those church officials had determined were “credibly accused.”

He also said attorneys could begin reviewing internal church documents that shed light on how it handled clergy abuse complaints.

The case that led to the historic rulings was filed in 2013 on behalf of a man who claimed he had been abused decades earlier by the Rev. Thomas Adamson, who later left the priesthood. It contends that church officials here and in Winona put children and others at risk of abuse by failing to disclose information about priests who had been accused of abuse.

“This is a very important case … This has become a bellwether case,” said Van de North, referring to the demands that the archdiocese provide information.

A ‘giant move forward’

St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson, lawyer for the alleged victim identified only as John Doe 1, called it a “giant move forward.”

He said it is the first time an archbishop in Minnesota has been required to submit to a deposition that was not limited to just one alleged abuser. It’s also the first time that a court has allowed such a range of internal church documents to be made available, he said.

“Today a door has been opened, light can shine in,” Anderson said.

Former Twin Cities Archbishops John Roach and Harry Flynn had been questioned under oath in other lawsuits, said Mike Finnegan, an attorney with Anderson’s law firm.

“But this is the first time the scope of the questions will not be limited to one individual perpetrator,” he said. “We’ll be able to ask about all the perpetrators that have worked in the archdiocese and the archbishop’s and Kevin McDonough’s role in covering up the abuse.”

According to the court order, the depositions must be taken within 30 days. Because of the volume of documents at issue as the case moves forward, Van de North also said he would seek a “special master” attorney to work with him on the case.

The archdiocese issued a written statement Tuesday after Van de North ruled.

“The archdiocese looks forward to working with the Court and all affected parties to promote the protection of children, the healing of victims and the restoration of trust of the faithful and our clergy who are serving our communities nobly and with honor,” the statement said.

The John Doe 1 lawsuit alleges that Adamson abused the boy from 1976 to 1977. The suit against the archdiocese and the Winona Diocese was the first filed since Minnesota temporarily lifted the statute of limitations on older abuse cases.

Archdiocesan attorney Daniel Haws argued that the scope of investigation — from decades-old church records to depositions of church leaders — was not relevant to the case of John Doe 1, whose reported abuse occurred more than 30 years ago.

Nienstedt has been archbishop since 2008, he said, and McDonough was new to his job as point person in the chancery on clergy misconduct complaints, Haws told the court. Judges typically limit the discovery of evidence on cases to the period during which the alleged problems occurred, he said.

But Anderson argued that the lawsuit sought to prove the church had created a public nuisance, and to do that, it would need to show a pattern of abuse.

Limits imposed on testimony

Van de North, however, did limit the scope of the sworn testimony. He said Nienstedt could testify under oath for a half day and McDonough for a full day. The judge also narrowed the scope of discovery for the “negligent supervision’’ charges in the case to the period of 1970 to 1985.

Van de North also ruled that Anderson could take testimony under oath from the Rev. John Brown, now retired in Maplewood, whom Anderson alleged had abused children in the 1950s and 1960s. How the archdiocese handled his case could shed light on its handling of Adamson’s and others, Anderson claimed.

The archdiocese opposed releasing the names of priests who had been accused of abusing children since 2004. That list would be different from the names released in December, because the priests on the earlier list had been determined by the archdiocese to be “credibly accused.”

The new list would contain the names of all priests who had been the subject of child abuse complaints to church officials.

The archdiocese argued that priests who had been falsely accused of abuse could have their reputations tarnished. In response, Van de North said the new archdiocese list could be filed “under seal, accompanied by a through explanation of why public disclosure is unreasonable.” The names could be disclosed by later court action.

The archdiocese said Tuesday that protecting those falsely accused remained critical.

“We strongly assert our pursuit of justice for any who are falsely accused,” the archdiocese wrote in its statement. “All of these goals are the basis for every action and decision we are making regarding this ongoing disclosure.”

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Pope Francis faces church divided over doctrine, global poll of Catholics finds

Michelle Boorstein and Peyton M. Craighill
Washington Post
February 8, 2014

Most Catholics worldwide disagree with church teachings on divorce, abortion and contraception and are split on whether women and married men should become priests, according to a large new poll released Sunday and commissioned by the U.S. Spanish-language network Univision. On the topic of gay marriage, two-thirds of Catholics polled agree with church leaders.

Overall, however, the poll of more than 12,000 Catholics in 12 countries reveals a church dramatically divided: Between the developing world in Africa and Asia, which hews closely to doctrine on these issues, and Western countries in Europe, North America and parts of Latin America, which strongly support practices that the church teaches are immoral.

The widespread disagreement with Catholic doctrine on abortion and contraception and the hemispheric chasm lay bare the challenge for Pope Francis’s year-old papacy and the unity it has engendered.

Among the findings:
●19 percent of Catholics in the European countries and 30 percent in the Latin American countries surveyed agree with church teaching that divorcees who remarry outside the church should not receive Communion, compared with 75 percent in the most Catholic African countries.
●30 percent of Catholics in the European countries and 36 percent in the United States agree with the church ban on female priests, compared with 80 percent in Africa and 76 percent in the Philippines, the country with the largest Catholic population in Asia.
●40 percent of Catholics in the United States oppose gay marriage, compared with 99 percent in Africa.

The poll, which was done by Bendixen & Amandi International for Univision, did not include Catholics everywhere. It focused on 12 countries across the continents with some of the world’s largest Catholic populations. The countries are home to more than six of 10 Catholics globally.
“This is a balancing act. They have to hold together two increasingly divergent constituencies. The church has lost its ability to dictate what people do,” said Ronald Inglehart, founding president of the World Values Survey, an ongoing global research project.

“Right now, the less-developed world is staying true to the old world values, but it’s gradually eroding even there. [Pope Francis] doesn’t want to lose the legitimacy of the more educated people,” he added.

After his election to the papacy 11 months ago, Francis seemed to immediately grasp the significance of the divisions among the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. He has chosen inclusive language, has played down the importance of following the hierarchy and has warned against the church locking itself up “in small-minded rules.” The poll reflects previous ones in finding that the vast majority of Catholics appreciate his approach.

Other faiths have seen many fissures over similar questions about doctrine, including Protestant denominations and Judaism.

Pope Francis appears particularly eager to engage with divisions around sex, marriage and gender and has called a rare “extraordinary synod” this fall on “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family.” For that, he has asked bishops to survey Catholics about their views of cohabitation, same-sex parenting and contraception, among other things.

Areas of similarity

Of the seven questions pollsters asked about hot-button issues, there appeared to be the greatest global agreement on contraception (opposing church teachings) and gay marriage (supporting the church’s stance).

Seventy-eight percent of Catholics across all countries surveyed support the use of contraceptives, which violate the church’s teaching that sex should always be had with an openness toward procreation. The church teaches natural family planning, which Catholics can use to plan sex and attempt to avoid getting pregnant.

More than 90 percent of Catholics in Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, Spain and France support the use of contraception. Those less inclined to support it were in the Philippines (68 percent), Congo (44 percent) and Uganda (43 percent). In the United States, 79 percent of Catholics support using contraception.

Debate in the church over reproductive technologies is nothing new, said Jose Casanova, a leading sociologist of religion at Georgetown University. He noted that a papal commission in the 1960s recommended approving the use of birth control pills (it was later rejected) and said dramatic recent medical advances have challenged theologians.

“If you accommodate contraception, does that mean you’d allow abortion? How do you distinguish which aspects of teaching go together? Bioethics is a new frontier that forces moral thinkers and ethicists to constantly ask: What is humanity?”

Catholics have been intensely divided over the centuries over other issues, he said, from whether it was all right to evangelize native peoples to how the church could accumulate wealth while holding up the value of poverty.

However, the disagreements around sex and pregnancy have built to “a crisis in the church with women,” Casanova said. The church can neither accept “the radical secularization of sexuality” — or the idea that sex has nothing to do with religion — nor can it continue insisting on practices that are being completely ignored. “Unless they face it, the church will be in trouble.”

The poll also showed 66 percent of Catholics opposing same-sex marriage, with majorities in eight of the 12 countries surveyed agreeing with church doctrine.

The poll suggests that in his first year, Pope Francis has proved apt at navigating this diverse flock. Eighty-seven percent of Catholics around the world said the Argentine pastor is doing an excellent (41 percent) or good (46 percent) job. Catholics in Mexico were least likely to approve of his performance, at 70 percent.

Areas of disagreement

The poll showed stark divisions among Catholics over church teachings on abortion, divorce and remarriage. Catholics who don’t get an annulment or who marry again outside a Catholic Church setting aren’t eligible for Communion and are considered not in unity with the faith.

Overall, 65 percent of Catholics said abortions should be allowed: 8 percent in all cases and 57 percent in some, such as when the mother’s life is in danger. But the highest support for abortion rights is in European countries, then in Brazil and Argentina, then in the United States, where 76 percent of Catholics said it should be allowed in some or all cases. In the Philippines, 27 percent of Catholics said abortion should be allowed under certain circumstances. In Uganda, 35 percent said so.
Catholics are most evenly split over the question of whether women and married men should be priests. The dividing line, again, falls on hemispheric lines, with those in Africa and Asia more traditional and others less so.

What’s distinctive today, Catholic theologian Lawrence Cunningham said, isn’t that there are disagreements but that they center on similar topics.

“Even if you look in the North American church of my youth, Polish Catholics and Irish Catholics and Italian Catholics weren’t focused on the same issues. They had their own views on family,” Cunningham said. “I don’t think [today] it’s an issue of disagreement. It’s more: ‘Whoa, we’re finding a lot of people from across the Catholic world talking about the same kinds of issues and we better face up to them.’ ”

U.S. and Latin America

Catholics in fast-developing Latin America fit somewhere in the middle, but not neatly. Thirty-nine percent of the world’s Catholics live in Latin America and the Caribbean, the biggest share in any region of the world. But Latin American Catholics’ relationship with the institutional church varies depending on many factors, including whether their government has been intertwined with church officials and whether evangelical Protestants have made recent inroads.

In the United States, Catholics are divided on some issues, including gay marriage (54 percent support it; 40 percent oppose it). Compared with Catholics worldwide, they are more liberal than Africa, Asia and some parts of Latin America but not as liberal as Spain. The poll mirrored ones that show U.S. Catholics support married priests, female priests, abortion and contraception.

Since the liberalizing and divisive Second Vatican Council, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II appeared to approach the gap with an explicit plan: Narrow it. They emphasized doctrine and called for institutions that wanted to call themselves Catholic to follow the rules. Benedict prompted a lot of debate by saying and writing that a period of shrinkage seemed inevitable if the church was to stick to its teachings.

Francis seeks feedback

So what is Pope Francis’s plan, if he has one?

Critics say his solicitation of opinions wrongly gives the appearance that Catholicism is a democracy. Others — including the authors of this poll — say there’s no evidence that he would touch doctrine and is seeking a deeper understanding of why so many Catholics reject church teachings so as to better market them.

Casanova said it’s not clear what Francis plans to do with the research, but the approach “fits with his idea of the church going out into the world and encountering the world as it is, not expecting the world to come to it.”

Any change would be a complex undertaking, as Catholics are going in many directions, he said. He noted that Catholics in Brazil, the most populous Catholic country, widely reject some core church teachings but are seeing a surge in men becoming priests for the first time in decades. Filipino Catholics, he said, support church teachings on some social issues but have a powerfully charismatic faith that isn’t focused on being in step with church leaders.

The church “may be in a period of moral evolution,” he said. “It’s not about seeing where the wind blows, but which are signs of God and which are simply fashion? This is a very difficult theological enterprise, kind of a new way of trying to understand the situation of the church in the world.”

Pope softening tone, not stance Cardinal Sean O'Malley says

John L. Allen, Jr and Lisa Wangness
Boston Globe
Februaray 9, 2014

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley says he shares in the sense of wonder at how swiftly Pope Francis has captured the world’s attention and softened, with his sometimes startling words and personal gestures, the image of the Roman Catholic Church.

But he cautions that those with high expectations that the shift in tone presages major changes in church teachings on contraception, abortion, homosexuality, and other flashpoint issues are likely to be disappointed.

“I don’t see the pope as changing doctrine,’’ O’Malley said in an interview with the Globe, though he said the pontiff’s focus on compassion and mercy over doctrinal purity has reverberated powerfully throughout the church.

The Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston and the closest American adviser to the popular new pontiff, O’Malley said says it would also be unrealistic to expect the church to consider allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive the sacraments, even though Francis himself once appeared to signal openness to the idea.

“The church needs to be faithful to the Gospel and to Christ’s teaching,” O’Malley said. “Sometimes that’s very difficult. We have to follow what Christ wants, and trust that what he asks of us is the best thing.”

O’Malley asked that the interview, conducted at the rectory of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston’s South End, where he lives with four other priests, focus on the pope and the global church, not local matters such as the controversy at Fontbonne Academy, a Catholic girls’ school in Milton, where an applicant to run the food service was dropped from consideration after revealing that he is in a gay marriage.

The cardinal said Francis’ early stress has been on changing the emphasis of the church, which in the past has been “too strident, maybe too repetitious.”

The pope wants to focus more on evangelism, mercy, and care for the poor, O’Malley said.

Church observers have speculated that bishops might discuss revising the prohibition on remarried Catholics receiving the sacraments in a worldwide gathering, or synod, in Rome this fall to discuss the church’s ministry on family issues.

Two prominent prelates close to the pope have offered clashing views on the matter, and Francis himself, in remarks to reporters aboard the papal plane in July, appeared to signal flexibility on the question.

But O’Malley said that although the pope is concerned about the plight of remarried Catholics who want to be close to the church, “I don’t see any theological justification” for relaxing the rules.

In preparation for the synod, the Vatican has been gathering input from bishops around the world on how the church communicates its teachings on the family and sexual morality, and how receptive Catholics are to those teachings.

German bishops last week released their response to the Vatican, a remarkably blunt assessment asserting that most German Catholics reject the church’s views on sexual morality and view its position on homosexuality as discrimination. (The US bishops declined to release their reply.)

Asserting it was already well known know that some Catholics break with the church on these issues, O’Malley said, “I don’t think that’s a stunning revelation. You could have saved some postage if that’s the only thing you got out of it.”

O’Malley acknowledged that the church’s teachings on social issues are unpopular in contemporary Western societies. But he said the church cannot change its views to suit the times. Instead, he said, it must find new ways of explaining its teachings to a culture dominated by secular humanist values.

“The church has always tried to explain the faith,” he said.

O’Malley’s read on Francis carries special weight.

He is the only American cardinal Francis knew well before his election. O’Malley has traveled widely in Latin America, and once stayed at the Buenos Aires residence of then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. They conversed comfortably in Spanish, a language O’Malley speaks fluently.

The 69-year-old archbishop is the only American on the pontiff’s all-important “G8” council of eight cardinal advisers, who will have their third session with Francis later this month to ponder reform of the Vatican bureaucracy and other matters. O’Malley, who has built a reputation as a reformer on clergy sexual abuse, expressed “distress” over a Feb. 5 report from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child charging the Vatican’s policies allowed child abuse to continue and let perpetrators go unpunished. He said Vatican could not be held responsible for policing the entire Catholic world — it is only in direct charge, he said, of its own citizens in Vatican City.

“I think the competence of the United Nations would have been to look at how they’re managing child protection with their own citizens,” he said. “I think that would have been a very positive contribution, because I think it’s very important the Holy See become a model of what we would like to see in other nations.”

Citing the UN panel’s call for the church to reverse its teachings on abortion, contraception, and gay marriage, he said the committee members had “allowed their ideological positions to enter into their judgments.”

Still, O’Malley said he thought the committee’s report would put new pressure on the Vatican to take stronger steps to prevent abuse. He agreed with the UN panel that the church must develop methods of holding bishops accountable when they fail to abide by a “zero tolerance” policy.

In December, O’Malley announced on Francis’ behalf that the pope was creating a new Vatican commission to lead the anti-abuse charge. In the Globe interview, O’Malley said that developing ways of holding bishops’ feet to the fire should be part of its mandate, but he did not indicate how long that would take.

“The first order of business is getting national policies in place, to have some clarity about what the expectations are throughout the world,” he said. “Once the policies are in place, what the [Vatican] might do to intervene where bishops are not following those policies has to be part of a future plan.”

Outside the doctrinal realm, O’Malley seemed to signal the possibility of breakthroughs on two other fronts: women in the church, and the practice of granting annulments, meaning a church declaration that a marriage is dissolved — that, technically, the marriage never existed in the first place.

O’Malley said it is at least possible Francis might name a woman to serve as the head of a major decision-making department in the Vatican, such as a hypothetical new “Congregation for the Laity.” Some theologians believe that only clerics can exercise power in the name of the pope.

While ruling out both female priests and female cardinals, Francis has called for greater leadership by women, a sentiment O’Malley echoed. “I think we’re all anxious to have more lay people involved, particularly more women in positions of responsibility at the Vatican,” he said.

On annulments, O’Malley said, the church’s Church’s system must be made become more “user-friendly,” perhaps by allowing cases to be brought to conclusion at the national level without appealing them to Rome.

“Sometimes the process can drag on for years, and that shouldn’t happen,” he said.

O’Malley described himself as “hopeful but realistic” about the prospects that Francis might include a stop in Boston during a US trip tentatively planned for September 2015, when a Vatican-sponsored “World Meeting of Families” will take place in Philadelphia.

The cardinal recalled joining Francis for a trip to the Italian city of Assisi on Oct. 4, the home of the pope’s namesake, St. Francis, and said he saw the demands such outings impose.

“They dragged him to every cave, every altar, and every crypt,” he said. “Everywhere he would go, someone would stand up and say, ‘This is the first time a pope has ever come here.’ I kept thinking, ‘He shouldn’t be here this time!’ ”

“He’s not a young man,” O’Malley said of the 77-year-old pontiff, “and he’s got to husband his strength and his health.”

If the only American stops Francis makes are in Philadelphia and possibly New York for a talk to the United Nations, O’Malley said, “We’ll take a lot of people from Boston there.”

O’Malley also said that Francis’ eloquent concern for the poor is having an effect, not only pushing bishops and priests to lead simpler lives but also stimulating parishes across the country, including in Boston, to expand programs of service and outreach.

Francis, he said, has opened a new window into the church.

“If people only think of the Church in terms of the sex abuse crisis or the culture wars, and that makes our job very challenging,” he said. “But when they say, ‘Oh, the Church is about announcing the Good News, about God’s love for us, that God wants us to be touched by his mercy and his love and that we have to take care of one another,’ that’s the Gospel we all want to preach,” he said. “Francis has done it so well, which makes it easier for all of us.”

But O’Malley, who participated in the conclave that elected Francis, suggested even he was surprised at the world’s embrace of the new pontiff.

“We’re proud of him, that he’s so popular and has captured the hearts and the imagination of the world,” O’Malley said. “We expect Catholics to love the Holy Father, but not Rolling Stone.”

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Synod of bishops: Europe overwhelmingly in favor of remarried divorcees

Domenico Agasso Jr
Vatican Insider
February 8, 2014

The Church needs to be “more open” and be able to welcome everyone, “regardless of differences and mistakes made.” This is the snapshot the Religious Information Service (SIR) gives of the first results of the survey on the family pastoral care programme (and the embracing of remarried divorcees) presented by Pope Francis ahead of the Synod of Bishops.

 “Belgian Catholics expect the Church to welcome everyone, regardless of differences or mistakes made. This especially true when it comes to gay people and remarried divorcees,” SIR says.

 “Belgian Catholics, inspired by Francis, are calling for a mother Church that embraces all: hence the need to grow in the faith and form lively communities,” SIR highlights. The questionnaires also placed an emphasis on the essential role women can play in Church life: “It is they who pass on the faith to children and guide them,” Belgian Catholics point out.

The Catholic Church in Luxembourg has also published its own analysis of the results of the questionnaires on the family online. The Synod of Bishops decided to send out said questionnaires in preparation for next October’s meeting. “The vast majority of responses came from people who feel they have ties with the Church and identify with it,” a note issued by the local Church reads, condemning “a growing divide between the magisterial proclamation of  the Church, the way this doctrine is received by the members of the Church and the effect it has on them.” The responses gathered in Luxembourg confirm the respect the Church has for the family but they also highlight that the importance in Church teaching has gone into “free fall” compared to the value given to individual conscience and freedom.

 According to Luxembourg’s Catholics, the Church does not offer a suitable solution to problematic family situations. “The doctrine on marriage, responsible fatherhood and the family is rejected in non-ecclesial circles (sometimes even in ecclesial ones),” because the Church is seen as a stranger and as not competent in these areas. In their answers Luxembourg’s Catholics refer to “the suffering caused by the exclusion from the sacraments, particularly in terms of reconciliation.” The rule the Church has regarding access to the sacraments appears inadequate.  They urge the Church “to put the pastoral mission of mercy into practice and create environments where it can be introduced and experienced.” But Luxembourg didn’t express any precise position or offer any concrete indications as to the issue of gay couples. There was simply an appeal to the Church to “accept reality as it is and not try to change it with moral models” and to be welcoming and merciful.

The Religious Information Service also highlights the difference in viewpoint between the German Church and its faithful on issues such as couples living together before marriage, birth control and contraception. The exclusion of remarried divorcees from the sacraments is seen as unjustified and cruel discrimination. German Catholics also ask for same-sex unions to be legally recognised and seen on equal terms as marriage “as a commandment of justice”.

The number one request Swiss faithful made was for remarried divorcees to be granted the right to receive communion. Although Swiss Catholics fully agree on the importance of sacramental marriage and the Christian education of children, they say it is “difficult to accept the Church’s doctrine on the family, marriage and homosexuality.” “An approximately 60% majority is in favour of the Church recognizing and blessing gay couples.” There is also “strongly disagreement over with the [Church’s] rejection of artificial contraception methods.”

Meanwhile, the Pope has nominated Mgr. Fabio Fabene as Under-Secretary of the Synod of Bishops. He had previously been an official in charge of the Congregation for Bishops.

Cardinal says pope 'wants to stir things up', let people ask questions

U.S. Cardinal Edwin O'Brien doesn't know what will come out of the Synod of Bishops on the family set for October, but the former archbishop of Baltimore believes it will be significant.

"Hold onto your seats," O'Brien told a gathering of seminarians and faculty at St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore. "I think Pope Francis wants to stir things up and allow people to raise questions. I don't think we're going to see a change in doctrine, but we will see a change in tone, and we might see some disciplinary modifications."

Those modifications might include adjustments in annulment procedures, O'Brien said.

"I think most bishops are very concerned that they have more say in annulments in a responsible way," he said Jan. 27.

O'Brien's comments were part of a wide-ranging address that touched on the retirement of Pope Benedict XVI, the election of Pope Francis and a look at how Pope Francis has governed the church in his first year.

O'Brien, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, was present in the room when Pope Benedict announced he was stepping down in 2013. The cardinal was also part of the conclave that elected the new pope.

As head of the Buenos Aires, Argentina, archdiocese, the future Pope Francis dealt as an outsider with the Curia that helps govern the church, O'Brien said, an experience that helped shape how he would interact with the curia when Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio became pope.

"He's seen its strengths and its weaknesses," O'Brien said, noting that the pope's establishment of an eight-member Council of Cardinals from around the world shows that the pope believes he needs advisers both within and outside the Curia.

The principal job of the Council of Cardinals, O'Brien said, is to "completely rewrite the central administration of the Catholic church." The cardinal said the Curia will somehow have to relate to the new Council of Cardinals.

"I think a year from now, we'll hardly know what the structure was, there will be so many different things that will have taken place," O'Brien said. "Maybe the heads of some conferences of bishops will be involved. I don't know. But we will know by the end of February because the group of eight will meet again and come up with formal recommendations."

O'Brien highlighted several themes of Pope Francis' young papacy, among them the importance of expanding the pope's circle of advisers, subsidiarity, solidarity with the poor, evangelizing at the periphery of the culture and acting as a missionary church.

The cardinal cited the pope's interview with an Italian atheist magazine editor and the pope's strong focus on mercy as examples of his willingness to reach out to others. The pope has opened up discussions with those who feel alienated from the church, O'Brien said.

The pope is modeling an example of being prepared to go anywhere and share the faith with anyone, O'Brien said.

Inspired by the pope's focus on the poor, O'Brien said he has become more conscious of how many times the Old and New Testaments make references to the poor. It reminds him to question himself and think about what the readings mean in light of what the pope is asking people to do in reaching the poor.

Noting that Pope Francis often compares the church to a mother, the cardinal said a mother never deserts her children.

"She's always available to listen and always to extend mercy," he said.