Thursday, July 31, 2014

Clueless in St. Paul

Michael Sean Winters
National Catholic Reporter
July 31, 2014

Yesterday, reading Archbishop John Nienstedt’s defiant statement of his intention to carry on as the Archbishop of St. Paul, my thoughts drifted back to May 1940. I know the limits of analogies between the political sphere and the religious, but in this case, the focus is on leadership, its exercise, and the dangerous way that some leaders misperceive their own situations.

On May 7, a debate began in the House of Commons on the war effort, specifically the recent failures in Norway where a planned occupation of key ports by the British Admiralty was frustrated when the Germans beat them to the punch. An effort to re-take the Norwegian ports failed. The country and its Commons were in a high state of excitement, not least because they knew that the blow on the Western Front could not be long in coming. During the first day of debate, Leo Amery, a respected member of the Conservative Party and a Privy Councilor as well, spoke against the government, invoking the terrible words of Cromwell to the Long Parliament, “You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”

The next day, it became clear that the debate was becoming a vote of censure on the government, that there would be a division of members and the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, would face a vote of no confidence. In his own remarks, Chamberlain called upon his friends to stand by him. It was an unfortunate comment. Lloyd George, who had led Great Britain through the latter half of the First World War, and was the nation’s leading eminence grise, threw down the gauntlet. “It is not a question of who are the Prime Minister’s friends. It is a far bigger issue. He has appealed for sacrifice. The nation is prepared for every sacrifice so long as it has leadership, so long as the Government show clearly what they are aiming at, and as long as the nation is confident those who are leading it are doing their best….I say solemnly that the Prime Minister should give an example of sacrifice, because there is nothing which can contribute more to victory in this war than that he should sacrifice the seals of office.”

In the division that followed, Chamberlain won the vote with a majority of 81. The standards of the British Constitution entitled him to stay in office. But, with fifty members of his own party defecting to the opposition, and the state of the country being what it was, Chamberlain recognized that a national government, uniting all the parties, was needed. The next day, he called the leaders of the Opposition to his office and asked them if they would join such a government. They said that they would consult with their party, but indicated that they suspected the party would refuse to serve in a government led by Mr. Chamberlain, a suspicion that proved correct.

Here is where the analogy becomes precise. The morning of May 10, of course, brought the news that the German blow had struck in the West – in Holland, Belgium and France. That morning, Chamberlain received his long-time colleague and close personal friend, Sir Kingsley Wood. Chamberlain told him that, under the circumstance of the Western Front bursting into flame, he thought he should stay at the helm until the crisis died down. Kingsley Wood, in what must have been an intensely difficult interview, explained that it was more vital than ever that a national government be formed, and that he must resign his seals of office that day. And, so it happened. By midnight, a new national government of all parties had been formed with Winston Churchill at its head.

Our Catholic Church has no equivalent of a parliamentary division to assess the level of support for its leaders, which is a good thing. The office of bishop is instituted by God, not man, and the first responsibility of a bishop is to keep the flock entrusted to him united in faith. But, the exercise of office, in the Church as in government, requires leadership especially in a time of acute crisis. Sometimes, the person at the center of the maelstrom, whose limitations have been demonstrated and finds himself incapable of exercising the leadership required, will, like Chamberlain, see in the crisis a reason to stay. It falls to friends like Sir Kingsley Wood – or closer to our own time, top Senate Republicans who had to tell Nixon it was time to go – to speak for the good of the nation, or of the Church, to say the harsh but necessary thing to the person who has shown himself incapable of leadership, to invite them to depart.

I do not know who in the U.S. Church can or will play the role of Sir Kingsley Wood. Regrettably, the nuncio seems disinclined to insist that Archbishop Nienstedt resign for the good of the Church. The USCCB has no formal or informal role in policing its own in such a grievous matter. And, given the tone of Archbishop Nienstedt’s statement - especially the biblical quote from Chronicles II: “Stop being afraid, and stop being discouraged because of this vast invasion force, because the battle doesn't belong to you, but to God.” – it is difficult to know to whom he would listen. The man conceives himself in the situation of King Jehoshaphat, and apparently considers the rest of us an invasion force.

To be clear: The people who have been calling for Archbishop Nienstedt’s removal have not invaded the Church and they do not call for his resignation because they hate the Church. Quite the contrary. They have called for his resignation because they love the Church. Even the editorial in the Star-Tribune reflected a great respect for the Church in Minnesota, and concern that a damaged Church would harm the entire community. That editorial was not the work of people who hate the Church. The harm to the Church in St. Paul is not the result of an invasion. It is the result of a lack of leadership. The wound is self-inflicted.

There are other troubling parts to Archbishop Nienstedt’s comments. He writes, “A bishop’s role is more like that of a father of a family than that of a CEO.” This is true, but what the depositions and the affidavits all indicate is that Archbishop Nienstedt is a self-absorbed and negligent father. He writes, “I have created a new leadership team that operates under the philosophy of ‘Victims First,’” which would have been fine if he had said these words and taken these actions circa 2002, not 2014. He writes that he has been “too trusting of our internal process and not as hands-on as I could have been in matters of priest misconduct,” but the public record, to say nothing of the depositions and affidavits, portray a man who is quite hands-on about things that matter to him, such as waging a campaign against same sex marriage and voicing his displeasure at the way staffers dressed and a host of other things most of us would consider less important than the protection of children.

Archbishop Nienstedt has said he will stay at his post until the Holy Father tells him otherwise. Of course, the pope has plenty of things to worry about and it would have been gracious to him to spare him the necessity of investigating the situation in St. Paul and reaching his own conclusion. Besides, while it is commonly thought that bishops are answerable only to the Holy Father, last year Bishop Charles Scicluna said that a bishop is answerable to God and to the local church. +Scicluna more properly grasps what leadership is about, that a bishop who is called to shepherd his flock must have the trust of the flock, the confidence of the flock, and that if that shepherd loses that confidence, he can no longer be a responsible shepherd.

Archbishop Nienstedt is deceiving himself. Like Chamberlain on the morning of May 10, 1940, he thinks the crisis requires him to stay when to the rest of the world, the precisely opposite conclusion is the obvious one. He finishes his column with these words: “As author Matthew Kelly reminds us, we as Catholics have a great story to tell, but we have let others tell the story for us. We need to get back to telling the story ourselves. God Bless you!” The Catholics of the Archdiocese of St. Paul do have a “great story to tell,” but their archbishop seems clueless to the fact that the chapter he has contributed is the saddest chapter in the book.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Twin Cities Archbishop Nienstedt vows to 'continue serving as I have been called to do'

Brian Roewe
National Catholic Reporter
July 30, 2014

Apologizing "for the distractions I have inadvertently caused," St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt expressed Wednesday his resolve to lead his archdiocese through its current clergy abuse scandal -- with no intention of resigning. "A bishop's role is more like that of a father of a family than that of a CEO. I am bound to continue in my office as long as the Holy Father has appointed me here," he said in a column in the archdiocesan Catholic Spirit newspaper, echoing comments he made to NCR in early July.

"I have acknowledged my responsibility in the current crisis we face, and I also take responsibility for leading our archdiocese to a new and better day," Nienstedt said before quoting 2 Chronicles where the spirit of the Lord tells King Jehoshaphat and his army, "Stop being afraid, and stop being discouraged because of this vast invasion force, because the battle doesn't belong to you, but to God."

As for the calls he resign -- most recently from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune editorial board -- the archbishop said he has heard them all and has heard similar chants since his arrival in the Twin Cities in 2007. He has read letters labeling him "a hypocrite, a domineering boss and a liar," as well as "a courageous moral leader and a true shepherd."

"I will continue to listen to those who express concerns about my leadership, but I will also continue serving as I have been called to do. I am devoted to serving this local Church, and I will continue to do so and to apply these hard lessons that I have learned over the past months.

"While it may be difficult to believe, the suffering we have endured is bearing much fruit in reform of practices and correction of decisions that were made in the past, either by me or my predecessors," Nienstedt said.

He began the column by stating: "To say that this has been a difficult year is quite an understatement."

Nienstedt was scheduled to meet with local media Wednesday; an NCR request for an interview is still pending.

On Tuesday, a law firm completed its investigation into allegations Nienstedt had engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with adult men. Nienstedt has called the charges "absolutely and entirely false." In the column, he said he opened the investigation, headed by Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piche, "because I had nothing to hide and wanted to be vindicated from false allegations, as anyone would."

Beyond that statement, Nienstedt did not address the investigation. It is not clear if its findings will be made public.

In the past year, the archbishop said he has "re-examined the words I have spoken and the actions I have, or have not taken." He apologized to those offended and hurt as a result of his personality and administrative style, "with its strong point of view," and promised to "soften my words" and spend more time among the people than behind his desk.

While admitting "it is very clear that we did not handle all complaints the way we should have in the past," Nienstedt said he has always been honest with the local church and repeated his claim that he never knowingly covered up instances of clergy sexual abuse of minors.

"I have, however, been too trusting of our internal process and not as hands-on as I could have been in matters of priest misconduct," he said.

Just four months earlier in April, Nienstedt presented a differing self-evaluation during a deposition taken as part of a lawsuit brought by John Doe 1 against the archdiocese, the Winona, Minn., diocese and former priest Thomas Adamson.

"Typically I'm a hands-on person," he said at the time.

In an affidavit filed in connection the Doe lawsuit, former canonical chancellor Jennifer Haselberger noted a November 2012 memo from Nienstedt in which he "stated they he thought the priests were 'overreacting' " in response to revelations of abuse and misconduct by Fr. Curtis Wehmeyer, currently in prison for sexually abusing two boys and possessing child pornography.

Haselberger has contested she brought concerns about Wehmeyer to Nientedt's attention as early as 2009, when the priest was under review for a pastor appointment. While interviewed by the law firm investigating Nienstedt, she said she was told one of the issues at hand was whether his relationship with Wehmeyer led him to ignore her warnings.

Learning that, as well as comments from Nienstedt in December -- where he stated that the recent reports surprised him and he thought the abuse issue was resolved by the time he first arrived -- caused her to join those endorsing his resignation.

Since the first reports alleging mishandled allegations emerged last September, Nienstedt said he has instituted a "victims first" philosophy and through a consultation team has reached out to victims of sexual abuse and has spoken to them and parishioners and families of priests he removed from ministry.

To reflect the new focus, the archdiocese is hiring a new victims' liaison that would join Nienstedt's consultation team. Earlier this month, it announced a search for a director of the recently formed office of safe environment and ministerial standards.

The column did little to appease Nienstedt's critics. In a statement, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests accused Nienstedt of continuing deceptive behavior that has endangered children.

"He claims he's not been 'hands on' enough. That's just not true. He's been plenty 'hands on,' but directed in precisely the wrong direction -- toward secrecy, not safety," the statement said.

Fr. Michael Tedeger, pastor of St. Francis Cabrini Church in Minneapolis, called the column inadequate and his quoting of 2 Chronicles was "a pretty bizarre thing."

"Does he see us as enemies? ... To think that this is all God and him against the world is pretty symptomatic of the problem here," he said.

In the column, Nienstedt wrote, "The learning curve of the past 10 months has prepared my staff and me to lead this local Church through the present crisis to a much better place. The challenges are there, to be sure, but we are more ready to tackle them now than at any time in our past history."

"I regret that some have lost their confidence in me. I hope ultimately to win back that trust," he wrote.

A world-wide persecution of Christians is well underway

Msgr. M. Francis Mannion *
Catholic News Agency
July 30, 2014

Recently, I picked up in Barnes and Noble a book entitled The Global War on Christians. My split-second reaction was that this was probably a work of hysteria and exaggeration.

Until I saw the author’s name: John L. Allen Jr. Allen is one of the most respected religious journalists in the U.S., having worked for many years as the senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, and now for The Boston Globe. Allen is no purveyor of hysteria and exaggeration, but a sober and thoughtful writer.

Consider the following examples of Christian persecution Allen details:

• In Iraq, fifty-two people died recently when Islamic militants stormed and burned the Syrian Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation; of the sixty-three Christian churches in Baghdad, forty have been bombed; in 1991, the Christian population of Iraq was at least 1.5 million, now most Iraqi Christians have fled the country, leaving less than 150,000 behind. (The Archbishop of Mosul said recently that his diocese has been virtually “wiped out.”)

• In India’s northern state of Orissa, as many as 500 Christians were killed in 2008, many hacked to death by Hindu radicals; an estimated 500 Christian homes and 350 churches and schools were destroyed.

• In Burma, Christians are considered political dissidents, and as many as 5,000 believers have been murdered; the government has given its air force authority to bomb Christians on sight.

• In Nigeria, the militant Islamic group Boko Haram has been responsible for almost 3,000 Christian deaths since 2009. The group is determined to drive Christians out of the country completely.

• In North Korea, considered the most dangerous place in the world for Christians, roughly a quarter of the country’s approximately 300,000 Christians are believed to be living in forced-labor camps because of their refusal to join in the cult of the “dear leader.”

Allen spends 299 pages detailing many more such hostilities toward Christians in China, Laos, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Egypt, the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Belarus, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, to name but the most flagrant.

He states that his book “is about the most dramatic religious story of the early twenty-first century, yet one that most people in the West have little idea is even happening.” “Christians today,” he says, “form the most persecuted religious body on the planet, and too often its new martyrs suffer in silence.”

Allen refers to the evangelical group Open Doors, devoted to monitoring anti-Christian persecution, which estimates that “one hundred million Christians worldwide presently face interrogation, arrest, torture, or even death because of their religious convictions.”

He reports that Protestant scholar Todd Johnson, an expert in Christian demographics, “has pegged the number of Christians killed each year from 2000 to 2010 at one hundred thousand.” That works out to “eleven Christians killed every hour, every day, throughout the past decade.”

Why are Christians in the West not aware of this terrible holocaust? For one thing the media do not report the persecution of Christians, and consider such news “politically incorrect.” Political leaders, for various reasons, are deaf to cries for help.

I must say that I myself was shocked by Allen’s book, and wondered what Catholics parishes in the U.S. could do. I recommend the following: include persecuted and murdered Christians in the Prayers of Intercession every Sunday; encourage parishioners to buy Allen’s book and read it; sponsor parish lectures on the subject, and set up book-study groups; barrage local and national leaders, especially in Congress, to do something about the growing “global war” on Christians.

Msgr. Mannion is pastor emeritus of St. Vincent de Paul parish in Salt Lake City. He holds a Ph.D in sacramental theology from The Catholic University of America. He was founding president of The Society for Catholic Liturgy in 1995 and the founding editor of the Societys journal, Antiphon. At the invitation of Cardinal Francis George of Chicago he founded the Mundelein Liturgical Institute in 2000.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Fr. Brian D'Arcy: my battle with cancer, the Catholic church and how my faith survived trauma of being abused as a boy of 10

Belfast Telegraph
July 28, 2014

Q. You are one of Ireland's best-known priests, but was religion always a part of your life?

A. I was born in 1945 and, growing up in the 1950s and 60s, not many families weren't religious. By modern standards, there were exceptionally religious families back then.

It was a culture. It didn't matter what religion you were, you went to church on Sunday, you had respect for your parents, the law and your community.

We weren't a family that was always in church or highly religious. We were a very normal family.

We were highly involved in GAA affairs – my father was a famous footballer – and that was almost as big a religion as Catholicism.

Did we believe in a God, did we pray, did we keep the Commandments? Yes, we did that as simply as you breathed because there was no other way of life.

Q. When and why did you decide to become a priest?

A. I had no notion of being a priest at all, even though it would have been on the list of possibilities for most Catholics growing up at the time.

I went to confession as a young boy one Saturday and the priest asked me if I had thought of becoming a priest. I said no, and he said I should consider it.

It was like a command, it was almost the voice of God speaking to me.

My mother and father said absolutely no way – I wasn't good enough. They said I was too fond of football and pop music and I would never make it.

I kept coming to confession, and the priest kept saying I should join the priesthood. Eventually I decided to give it a try, not expecting to go through with it.

I entered the Passionist monastery near Enniskillen on September 1, 1962.

Q. You were abused as a child – did that shake your faith?

A. I was abused when I was 10 and at school in Omagh. I didn't realise what was happening at the time, but I still knew it was wrong. It had a great effect on me. It made me very nervous and insecure, unsure of what religion was or wasn't because it was a religious brother who abused me for almost a year.

As a teenager, after I entered the priesthood, a priest tried to involve me in abuse as well.

I had more sense at that age and was able to get out of the situation much quicker.

I hadn't the wit to tell my superiors because he told me that if I ever told anyone I would never be ordained.

It was only 35 years or so afterwards that I was even able to think about it.

Abuse affects you to the day you die. It leaves you very insecure, very hurt. You never actually get over it. You have to live with it.

Q. You could never imagine it had been so widespread in the church?

A. I thought I was the only child in the country that it had happened to. I genuinely thought that, which is why I convinced myself I wouldn't be believed.

It was such a uniquely awful experience. Being abused by an adult who you trusted, especially by someone in religion, destroys your relationship with people, it destroys your relationship with others and it threatens to absolutely destroy your relationship with God.

Q. Pope Francis recently said he believes one in 50 priests is involved in child abuse – do you think that's accurate?

A. He is underestimating it. It is more than that. At the very minimum, I would say three to five per cent, and I would say nearer 5%. But that is only the reported cases – I would contend that less than 50% of cases are ever mentioned or reported. So what is the real figure? It's probably nearer 8% – about one in 12 priests. Certainly one in 15 have either abused, assaulted or had dysfunctional sexual relationships.

Q. It has been very damaging for the Catholic Church.

A. It has, but I would rather have the church now, with its less arrogant, less perfectionist attitude than a church which said there is no room for sinners.

You always have to accept that you have to live with sin, not necessarily in sin, but with sin.

Q. Do you think it will ever recover its old image?

A. I hope not, because when its image was best, its sinfulness was greatest. Its image now is far more healthy because the good will survive and the hypocritical will perish.

Q. Would you still have joined the priesthood if you knew the scandals that were going to rock the church?

A. I honestly don't know. I think I probably would join the priesthood in any era if it was a priesthood of service to people, where you try to help people in trouble and walk with them.

That is what the priesthood is about – it's not about the image of the church.

It is about living an honest life, not pretending to be a saint when you're like everyone else – a sinner who needs forgiveness.

What would make it very difficult to be a priest is where the church pretended that priests were better than others, that it had to be clerically dominated and where sin was hidden in case it damaged the image of clerics.

Q. Have you ever regretted joining the priesthood?

A. Yes, of course, such as when I haven't been free to speak what is obviously the truth.

I've never regretted being a priest when it meant helping people by sacrifices we have to make such as not marrying.

I would like to have married, very much, and it would have made me a better priest, but that's a sacrifice I was prepared to make.

Q. Have you ever doubted your faith?

A. Yes – you have to. You never grow in faith if you don't doubt it.

Doubt is not the opposite of faith – certainty is. Because if I am certain of something, why do I need faith?

I can't convince myself rationally that God exists, but I know in my soul that He does, so I take the leap of faith into the darkness.

Faith is matured and strengthened through periods of doubt.

Q. Two years ago it emerged your Sunday World columns have to be submitted to an official censor – that made you very angry?

A. They attempted to censor it, I've never let them censor it.

They were saying from Rome that what I was writing in the Sunday World was contrary to what the Catholic Church believed.

I dispute that to this day. There are some things you can have an opinion on, and I have an opinion which is different to Rome.

I have never, ever disputed what is defined Doctrine.

Nothing has changed to this day, except the fact there is a more benign Pope in place and one can breathe a little easier.

But the letter of censure has never been withdrawn, and I don't expect it to be.

I'm certainly not going to write only what the Vatican thinks should be written.

If they feel I don't deserve to be a priest, well, let them throw me out. I'll survive, somehow.

Q. So what exactly is the current situation – are you submitting articles to Rome?

A. Not at all, they appointed someone to censor my work.

I have an arrangement with them that if there is something that might be controversial regarding faith and the Doctrine, I will ask them about it.

But it won't be the whole article – just that particular point.

They won't censor my thoughts, I refuse to let that happen.

Q. It did cause you some anguish though?

A. After about two years of sheer hell, I realised I wasn't wrong, and that everything I had been saying had been common sense.

I got the courage to realise that what I was saying was right.

Say it, they know where I am – if they want to come and get me then let them, but I'm not going to go around worrying over whether I should say something in case it upsets some guy in Rome.

I'm more interested in what my readers think than what some fella in Rome thinks.

It was a nonsense and a perfect example of how a dysfunctional institution becomes so keen on self-preservation that if forgets it has a mission to tell the truth.


Q. When were you diagnosed with cancer?

A. Earlier this year, but I don't really like saying too much about it. It's prostate cancer, which any man can get at any stage.

I haven't said much about it because it's putting yourself in the limelight, but thankfully I'm overcoming it.

My faith was important through it, it is also a reminder that you're not going to live for ever.


Q. Do you think the priesthood will still exist 50 years from now?

A. It will still be here but I've no idea what it will look like.

It will have to change, of that there is no question, and God is telling us that.

We can't go on looking for male celibates, and having an exclusive club of male celibates.

I can see a time where men can be married and run a family and offer Eucharist at the weekend, there's no reason why it couldn't happen.

It happens in other churches very effectively.

Will people have to go to Mass on a Sunday for ever? I think it will be impossible for people to go to Mass. I regret that because I think the Eucharist is a hugely central part of any believing Christian's life.

I wish the church would lift this idea that it is a sin not to go to Mass on a Sunday because I think it's the wrong way around.

It is such a privilege to attend Mass on a Sunday that anyone with any iota of faith would want to be there, rather than compelled to be there.


Q. Recently it emerged that 800 babies may be buried in a mass grave in Tuam, Co Galway. That really distressed you?

A. It is the kind of thing we would have expected to come out of Germany during World War Two.

I was at Knock and I went to the grave to pray, and I was traumatised for days afterwards.

It seems to me a terrible comment on the church at the time, and a terrible comment on society at the time.

How could the birth of a child not be anything other than a social joy?

Why should parents send their daughter into a home to have a child? Why should parents never want to see or hold their own grandchild?

It is a most horrific comment on basic Christian values.

It is just sickening to think that this society was somehow viewed as Christian and saintly and holy and godly, when everything about it was precisely the opposite.

Q. You're now 69, and as busy as ever, do you still enjoy it?

A. I've always enjoyed priestly work.

I've never actually enjoyed being a priest.

I'm not a stuffy cleric, I can't fit into that scene.

That causes me great grief among other clerics who think I should be a member of the club, but I'm not a member of the club.

I was ordained to serve people, not to keep other priests happy.

full article at Belfast Telegraph

Vatican fires a priest in Paraguay accused of molesting US seminarians

Will Carless and Alex Leff
Global Post
July 28, 2014

The Vatican has ordered a diocese in eastern Paraguay to dismiss a priest accused of sexually abusing young men in the United States and has restricted the powers of the bishop who hired him, according to local news reports.

The Ciudad del Este diocese’s reported firing of Argentine priest Carlos Urrutigoity followed a recent investigative report by GlobalPost into his rise to a powerful position in the South American city, despite a string of molestation allegations against him.

The reporting, and local media coverage that followed, unleashed a flood of controversy over the priest’s continued work in the church — where he’d been promoted to the No. 2 post of vicar general.

According to legal documents reviewed by GlobalPost, seminarians in Minnesota and Pennsylvania made allegations against Urrutigoity that included his touching one young man’s genitals and asking another to insert anal suppositories in front of him. Clergy members from Switzerland to Scranton have issued warnings that the Argentine priest is “dangerous” and “a serious threat to young people.”

Urrutigoity has denied the allegations and was never criminally charged. But US activists have campaigned for him to be punished. That movement has gained fierce voices in Paraguay — and it appears to have gotten an answer from the pope.

Ciudad del Este Bishop Rogelio Livieres Plano said Urrutigoity had been dismissed as vicar general in early July by request of the Vatican’s representative, Apostolic Nuncio Antonio Ariotti, Paraguay’s Vanguardia newspaper reported Saturday.

In mid-July, Pope Francis sent a delegation to check up on the Ciudad del Este church, a visit that the city’s bishop said was unrelated to the scandal. Bishop Livieres has publicly defended Urrutigoity from what he claims is slanderous persecution.

But Francis’ delegates took action against the bishop, too.

“At the seminary of Ciudad del Este [the bishop] is going to be suspended for a time from ordaining priests or deacons,” Cardinal Santos Abril y Castello told a news conference Saturday, according to Agence France-Presse.

Javier Miranda, a former volunteer at the diocese who has led a campaign against Urrutigoity and Livieres, said he was delighted with the news that Urrutigoity has been removed.

“We are still waiting for a final decision from Rome, but we are very positive, very positive,” Miranda said in a phone interview from Ciudad del Este.

Regarding Livieres, Miranda said the bishop has alienated himself from much of Paraguay’s Catholic Church and even from his own flock.

“He has to go,” Miranda said. “He has lost his ministry … the church needs to find a way to solve all of these scandals.”

Some activists want to see tougher measures by the Vatican.

“Any time a predator is exposed or suspended, it’s positive,” said David Clohessy, director of the St. Louis-based Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. “But, the real issue is always the enablers. We think the pope needs to punish every high-ranking church official who had anything to do with father Carlos’ continued access to kids.”

That goes for the Ciudad del Este bishop, too, Clohessy added.

“Bishops who endanger kids should be fired, plain and simple,” he said.

After investigation of diocese in Paraguay, Vatican suspends ordinations

Catholic World News
July 28, 2014

The Vatican has suspended priestly ordinations in the Diocese of Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, according to multiple media reports.

Following an investigation of the diocese led by Cardinal Santos Abril y Castello, ordinations have been suspended until Pope Francis resolves difficulties in the diocese, reports indicate. No public announcement has been made about the reason for the action.

The Vatican ordered an investigation of the diocese following the revelation that a priest who was accused of sexual abuse while serving in the US was serving as vicar general in Ciudad del Este. That report brought to a head tensions between the diocesan leader, Bishop Rogelio Livieres Plano, and other bishops in Paraguay, and complaints from lay activists about alleged irregularities in diocesan affairs.

The accused priest, Father Carlos Urrotigoity—who is identified by the Scranton, Pennsylvania diocese as a “serious threat to young people”—was reportedly removed from his post as vicar general earlier this month, at the request of the apostolic nuncio in Paraguay, Archbishop Eliseo Ariotti. However, Bishop Livieres has defended Father Urrotigoity in the past, saying that thc charges against him are unproven.

Defenders of Bishop Livieres have argued that the complaints against him have been fueled by liberal ideology. They note that Bishop Livieres, a harsh critic of liberation theology and a strong supporter of the traditional liturgy, has led a strong revival of the faith in the Ciudad del Este diocese, pointing to increases in the numbers of priests, church weddings, and baptisms.

Cardinal Abril y Castello arrived in Paraguay to begin his investigation on July 21, and met with Bishop Livieres the next day. The busy schedule of the trip took a toll on the Spanish cardinal, and he was briefly hospitalized after fainting on July 24. But his condition was not deemed serious, and he resumed his duties promptly, finishing his week-long visit. Cardinal Abril y Castello —who is the archpriest of the Roman basilica of St. Mary Major, and was recently appointed by Pope Francis to chair the commission of cardinals supervising the Vatican bank—was joined in the investigation by Bishop Milton Troccoli, the auxiliary bishop of Montevideo, Uruguay.

As he prepared to return to Rome, Cardinal Abril y Castello urged the faithful in Paraguay to respect the Vatican’s decision and await further announcements. Bishop Livieres said that he would obey directives from Rome, while insisting that he is innocent of any wrongdoing.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

To heal church, Nienstedt must go

Editorial Board
Star Tribune
July 26, 2014

Signs abound that the leadership crisis sparked by priest abuse of children in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has come to a breaking point. Consider these developments just this month:

• A judge in St. Paul — a city whose history and culture are inseparable from the Roman Catholic Church — refused to set aside a lawsuit’s claim that the Twin Cities archdiocese and the Diocese of Winona had created a public nuisance with their handling of abusive priests. District Judge John Van de North said he is seeking more information on that charge as he allowed a suit to go forward on claims of negligence.

• An affidavit by former archdiocesan canon law chancellor Jennifer Haselberger reported a “cavalier attitude about the safety of other people’s children” at the archdiocese’s top levels, leading to lax investigations and continued priestly service by suspected abusers. Haselberger resigned from her post in 2013 because, she said, she could no longer work for an organization that was not fully cooperating with an investigation of illegal activity within it.

• The archdiocese confirmed to the Star Tribune that Archbishop John Nienstedt is the subject of a monthslong investigation of sexual misconduct with seminarians, priests and other men.

• Minnesota Public Radio aired an hourlong documentary, “Betrayed by Silence,” detailing how three St. Paul/Minneapolis archbishops — Nienstedt and his predecessors John R. Roach and Harry Flynn — ignored or downplayed evidence and, until this year, concealed the names of priests credibly accused of molesting children.

• An editorial in the New York Times said that if Pope Francis is serious about holding bishops accountable for the abuse scandal that has rocked the church, a “good place to start” would be St. Paul and Minneapolis, with the removal of Nienstedt.

Today, with sadness, this newspaper joins that call. For the sake of one of this state’s most valued institutions and the Minnesotans whose lives it touches, Nienstedt’s service at the archdiocese should end now.

It will take months, and maybe years, for legal and ecclesiastical proceedings to sort out the charges that have been leveled by Haselberger and others who’ve been wronged by the church and its leaders. Those cases should go forward with care and diligence. Minnesotans deserve assurance that in this state, justice is available even when “the least of these” fall prey to people entrusted with power.

But the continued presence of the embattled Nienstedt in the chancery increases the likelihood that those matters will impede the work of the church in the larger community. Deservedly or not, Nienstedt has become the face of a coverup that has put children in harm’s way. His credibility is in tatters. The archdiocese needs a different leader — a reformer — to have a reasonable chance of restoring its damaged reputation and sustaining its service to the community.

We’ve been hesitant to make this call until now for two reasons. We consider it presumptuous for a secular news organization to advise a church about internal matters. And just two years ago, the Star Tribune Editorial Board and Nienstedt openly quarreled about the ballot question that would have constitutionally banned same-sex marriage in this state. Although that disagreement is unrelated to today’s call for Nienstedt to depart, we know some readers will question our motivation.

A larger concern now overrides those considerations, however. The Catholic name attaches not only to churches, but to schools, colleges, hospitals, homeless shelters, congregate dining, care for the elderly and a host of other good works that serve more than Catholics. The damage that brand name is suffering in Minnesota has become severe enough to put public support — and, crucially, donor support — of all things Catholic at risk. The abuse scandal has become more than an internal problem.

Catholic organizations, including the annual fund drive formerly known as the Archbishop’s Appeal, have gone to considerable lengths since the scandal broke to distance themselves from the chancery, both legally and in public perception. The distraction from core mission that those efforts represent is regrettable. The likelihood that they will also be insufficient if Nienstedt remains is growing, and worrisome. Minnesota needs the work that those church-affiliated entities do.

This state also has benefited since its founding from the calls for compassion, social justice and civic harmony that have emanated from this archdiocese. The moral authority that those calls once carried is now badly eroded, and Nienstedt is in no position to restore it.

Neither does the chancery incumbent stand much chance of rallying support for new practices and attitudes that might prevent future scandals. The church is paying a high price for its misdeeds and misjudgment. But it is also being presented with a rare opportunity to bring in a new order of transparency and accountability, provided a leader emerges who can rally the faithful behind a reform agenda.

We’ve heard from prominent Minnesota Catholics who have made quiet but urgent pleas to the Vatican for Nienstedt’s replacement. Those pleas deserve heed. But we also hope Nienstedt takes to heart the example of Pope Benedict. Eighteen months ago, Benedict concluded that he was not up to the task of meeting the church’s leadership needs, and broke with 600 years of tradition to resign from office. His decision was not a display of weakness, but of love for his church. Nienstedt’s resignation would show the same.

Friday, July 25, 2014

St. Thomas faculty join refrain for Twin Cities leadership change

Brian Roewe
National Catholic Reporter
July 25, 2014

Five female professors at the University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul, Minn., say it’s time for new leadership in the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese, the latest to repeat a refrain already echoed by priests, donors, news publications and Catholics in the pews.

“For genuine healing to occur, we believe it is necessary to have new leadership at the archdiocesan level, leadership that includes individuals who are neither perpetrators nor enablers of abuse,” they said in a letter shared with several media outlets, including NCR.

The tenured theology professors -- Cara Anthony, Corrine Carvalho, Sherry Jordon, Sue Myers and Kimberly Vrudny -- did not name specific persons, such as Archbishop John Nienstedt, in the letter, but said they see a need to restore trust in the archdiocese following the near year-long abuse scandal that has hovered over the region.

“Because we believe in a God of justice and of mercy, restoration of community requires that abusers acknowledge wrongdoing and undergo the long, hard, arduous task of reconciliation. This entails sincere contrition, public truth telling, and adequate restitution,” they said.

The group, speaking their own views, said they could not keep quiet after learning more of the abuse scandal from a recent Minnesota Public Radio documentary and from the affidavit of Jennifer Haselberger, the former chancellor for canonical affairs who has disclosed much of the documents that has fueled near-constant reports since September.

Calls for a change in leadership have gained renewed momentum from the affidavit and reports that Nienstedt is under investigation, one that he ordered, for allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct with other adult men, including priests and seminarians. Nienstedt has fiercely denied the charges.

In a July 8 email to NCR, the archbishop said he has heard calls for his resignation but that the decision is not his to make. “As a bishop,” he said, “I made a promise to serve the Church. It is what God has called me to do, like a groom to the Church, for better or for worse.”

In their letter, the professors said it has been painful to learn of the indiscretions, some allegedly committed by people they knew and respected. In October, a woman accused Fr. Michael Keating, a St. Thomas professor, of abusing her as a teenager in the late 1990s. Keating has taken a leave of absence from the school and priestly ministry and has denied any wrongdoing.

“We teach a tradition that proclaims a God of love who cares for the downtrodden, and we find it difficult when that biblical message is met with skepticism and resistance in our classrooms because of the behavior of clerics who abuse their positions in the church,” the professors said.

They wrote they spoke on behalf of children who have been molested and ignored, and were concerned about the harm caused them while “systemic efforts” sought instead to protect the perpetrating priests.

“We recognize the hypocrisy of the clergy when they judgmentally rebuke congregants for sexual behavior they deem deviant when some of them are pedophiles, and when some of them have abused their positions of power to protect child molesters,” the letter said.

Because some of the actions were taken with “full knowledge and intention,” they said Catholic moral thought “makes their crimes all the more egregious,” and warrant prosecution for any committed. But more than prosecution or reconciliation, they perceived a need for new voices in the archdiocese.

“Rather than leaders who use power to protect themselves and their fellow clergy, we need ministers who put the children first, and who truly understand how to heal the brokenhearted,” they wrote.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Kansas City Diocese case is for the children

Mary Sanchez
Kansas City Star
July 23, 2014

A gray-haired woman tilted her head, a hand held cupped to her ear, listening intently as the judge grilled attorneys representing the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese.

The former teacher liked what she heard from Jackson County Circuit Judge Bryan Round on Wednesday. He seemed to understand. To grasp why she and about a dozen others attended the hearing to determine if a breach of contract ruling ordering the diocese to pay a $1.1 million award will stand.

It’s for the children. To ensure that the diocese will continue to do whatever is within its power to protect children from sexual abuse.

From 1956 to 1995, Marie Mentrup taught at St. Gabriel’s School. Among her former eighth-grade students was a boy who later accused a priest of molesting him as a child. She said she knew other victims. But that student, who died nearly two years ago, was among the plaintiffs in the diocese’s 2008 $10 million settlement to resolve such civil suits.

“It hasn’t stopped,” Mentrup said, alluding to how this wound up back in the courts.

The largest indicator that the diocese failed to live up to its obligations from the settlement is the conviction of then-priest Shawn Ratigan for child pornography. And the deplorable ways the diocese failed to follow up on what turned out to be credible questions about Ratigan’s behavior around children.

Besides the money, which was divided among 47 victims and their families, the diocese agreed to 19 commitments. Many of the points sought to institutionalize attitudes and processes within the diocese to prevent future abuse.

Judge Round prodded the diocese’s attorneys to define “the essence” of the original agreement. One lawyer replied it was partly for the diocese to avoid being “hauled into court” every time a victim wasn’t satisfied.

“If that is what you think the essence of the agreement is, then I think you are missing the point of it,” Round replied.

Round didn’t rule from the bench. Rather, he acknowledged the intricate legalities that must be weighed fairly. There are questions about the limits of an arbitrator’s power, previous rulings on such matters and the issue of awarding monetary findings when the diocese is found in breach of points that were considered nonmonetary.

Round said he wanted to issue “an order that is thoughtful.” That’s a goal in keeping with his demeanor so far.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Wake up call for Catholic hierarchy

Mark Silk
Spiritual Politics
July 21, 2014

Jennifer Haselberger’s affidavit ought to be sounding alarms throughout the length and breadth of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. What the former chancellor of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has done is to call into question the efficacy of the procedures the American church has put into place to assure the faithful and society at large that it is successfully dealing with the sexual abuse of minors by priests.

The 109-page document is the first insider’s account of the handling of reports of clergy abuse by diocesan officials in the years following passage of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, initially approved at the bishops’ June, 2002 meeting in Dallas. No doubt, there are facts asserted by Haselbeger that might not constitute proof beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. As she herself notes on a number of occasions, her recollection is at odds with what others have sworn to.

Nevertheless, it is impossible to dismiss her portrait of an archdiocesan culture bent on working around the Charter, on keeping information from the civil authorities to the extent possible—all the while putting up a show of caring deeply for the victims. Anyone who doubts this portrait should listen to the hour-long documentary on Minnesota Public Radio, which integrates what Haselberger has to say with statements of a wide range of church leaders, victims and their families, and legal experts.

Where the buck stops in Minnesota is with Archbishop John Nienstedt, who inherited a corrupt regime and perpetuated it. Nienstedt, who is himself being investigated for sexual misconduct, has provided more than ample evidence that he is unworthy of serving in his present position.

But it is folly to imagine that contriving a way for him to step aside will make things right. For what Jennifer Haselberger and Minnesota Public Radio have done is far more than expose the hypocritical machinations of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. They have provided reason to doubt all statements from ecclesiastical authorities that sexual abuse in the church is being handled properly.

Will the American bishops be roused from their slumber? Given their silence in the face of the criminal conviction of Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City for failing to report a case of sexual abuse, it is hard to believe that anything other than action by the Vatican can do the trick. And given the apparent resistance of papal nuncio Carlo Maria Viganò, it will take the new papal commission on sexual abuse to force recognition that unless and until the church forthrightly condemns and punishes those who cover-up sexual abuse, the scandal will continue to fester.

The sexual abuse crisis in the Archdiocese of St. Paul - Minneapolis

Minnesota Public Radio has played a leading role in bringing to light the unsavory story of coverup of sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of St. Paul - Minneapolis over decades and several archbishops. The factual information has come both from archdiocesan documents made public by court order as well as depositions of top present and former officials. MPR has just released an extensive telling of the archdiocese's history of dealing with allegations of abuse starting with roots in Louisiana before the abuse crises was very visible in America.

A link to the total story is here.

An extract from the initial part (from. chapter 1 of 4 chapters) :

Minnesota Public Radio
July 21, 2014

(Bishop) Flynn would later claim that he healed the Diocese of Lafayette and restored the faith of its Catholics. Bishops, reporters and parishioners were amazed by his success, and Flynn, then the archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, became a much sought-after expert on clergy sexual abuse.

"These people were crying out for someone to heal them fully," Flynn wrote in April 2002. "When they told me of the terrible acts perpetrated against them or their children, I was sometimes overwhelmed by the gravity and intensity of their accounts."

The Lafayette scandal showed him that "the bishop needs to quiet his own heart and be able to receive the confusion and hurt before attempting to respond to it," he told bishops in a 1994 national report on clergy sexual abuse.

At a national conference on the topic in 2003, Flynn addressed the audience as keynote speaker. "My experience of this problem as a bishop goes back to the place and almost to the time of the first case of this kind to gain widespread public attention," he said. "This was in the Diocese of Lafayette, La."

The assignment had been a painful one. "For a while, it was not easy being a Catholic – and definitely not a priest or a bishop – in Lafayette," he said. "One of the things that gives me hope in the current crisis is the experience I had in Lafayette of how people of good faith dealt with these terrible happenings. They were able, in a period of great testing, ultimately to discern between the grievous failings of the church's ministers and the truth and integrity of her Gospel message.

"This is not mere wishful thinking. The local church of Lafayette came to this realization only after suffering a great deal in facing up to the terrible things done to innocent children by men who should be among the most trustworthy in the community."

During the dark days of the national scandal in 2002, Flynn's legend grew. "The story is that when they sent Archbishop Flynn to Louisiana, he had a driver take him to every family where there had been a victim," the Rev. Jim Wiesner, who served as a priest in Minneapolis in the 1990s, told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "He was spit on, thrown in the mud. When people asked him, 'Why did you keep doing that?' he said, 'To give them an opportunity to voice their anger.'"

News organizations, including the Star Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press, repeated similar claims without verifying them. When U.S. bishops selected Flynn to lead their response to the national clergy abuse scandal, a Star Tribune editorial praised the selection as a sign that the church was serious about reform.

Flynn became the face of the church's response. He led the committee that wrote the church's policy, called the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. His background gave the Catholic Church tremendous credibility at a moment of crisis.

There was just one problem. The story wasn't true.

read full story here

Isis militants seize Iraq monastery and expel monks

July 21, 2014

Islamist militants in Iraq are reported to have seized an ancient monastery near Mosul and expelled the monks.

Local residents said monks at the Mar Behnam monastery were allowed to take only the clothes they were wearing.

The monastery, which dates from the 4th Century, is a major Christian landmark and a place of pilgrimage.

Christians have fled Mosul after the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) told them to convert to Islam, pay a tax or face death.

Isis has seized large parts of Syria and Iraq and said last month it was creating an Islamic caliphate.

Mosul itself is now said to be empty of Christians.

The Mar Behnam monastery is run by the Syriac Catholic Church and is near the predominantly Christian town of Qaraqosh, to the south-east of Mosul.

Analysis by BBC Arab affairs editor Sebastian Usher

Ancient landmarks like Mar Behnam show how deeply embedded Christianity is in the culture and history of Iraq. Just as in many other Arab countries, churches and monasteries are a timeless part of the landscape.

For years, though, Christians have been warning that their hold in parts of the Middle East is weakening. In Iraq, the lightning seizure of large parts of the country by Isis has been a frightening new threat. Thousands have fled Mosul, leaving it for the first time without a Christian community, after Isis gave them an ultimatum to submit to its authority or face death.

But if Iraqi Christians face penalties and discrimination under Isis, other religious sects are faring even worse. Yazidis and Shia Muslims risk being taken out and killed on the spot for their beliefs.

A member of the Syriac clergy quoted the militants as telling the monastery's residents: "You have no place here any more, you have to leave immediately."

He said the monks asked to be allowed to save some of the monastery's relics but the fighters refused.

Local Christian residents told AFP news agency that the monks walked for several miles before they were picked up by Kurdish fighters.

Earlier this month, Isis issued an ultimatum in Mosul, citing a historic contract known as "dhimma," under which non-Muslims in Islamic societies who refuse to convert are offered protection if they pay a fee, called a "jizya".

"We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract - involving payment of jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword," the Isis statement said.

Isis issued a similar ultimatum in the Syrian city of Raqqa in February, calling on Christians to pay about half an ounce (14g) of pure gold in exchange for their safety.

Iraq is home to one of the world's most ancient Christian communities but its population has dwindled amid growing sectarian violence since the US-led invasion in 2003.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Time for +Nienstedt to go

Michael Sean Winters
National Catholic Reporter
July 18, 2014

It is time for Archbishop John Nienstedt to go.

Reading the affidavit of Jennifer Haselberger, the former chancellor of the Archdiocese of St. Paul, is grim. Caveat: A lawyer friend told me that a good defense attorney could drive several trucks through the document and that may be true. But, even if a quarter of what is asserted in that document is true, it is obvious that the Archdiocese of St. Paul has failed to live up to the bishops’ own requirements regarding the protection of children. Instances of suspected child abuse were not reported to the civil authorities. Clergy were not removed from active ministry as required by the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children. Almost every page of Haselberger’s affidavit illustrates a clerical culture that, when confronted with evidence of proven or potential sexual abuse of a minor, instinctively reacted with the thought, “poor Father.”

Archbishop Nienstedt is not the first bishop to be found ignoring or ameliorating the bishops’ own guidelines for child protection. The grand jury reports from Philadelphia showed a similar willful disregard for the Dallas norms. We all know that Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph remains the bishop of that diocese even though he could not be hired to teach Sunday school because of his prior conviction for failing to report suspected child abuse. Each of these cases damages the credibility of the entire episcopacy. Each of these cases evidences a lack of accountability. Each of these cases gives the lie to the claim, repeated again and again since Dallas, that the bishops have cleaned up the mess, that the Catholic Church is now the safest place in the world for children, that the whole sordid clergy sex abuse mess is in the rear view mirror.

It is important to draw a distinction here. There is no excusing what happened before Dallas, the systematic re-assignment of predators, the cover-ups, the failure to abide by civil law to say nothing of the moral law. But, at Dallas, the bishops of the United States recognized the problems were systemic and adopted a systematic approach to those problems, a nationwide set of standards that they applied to themselves, and establishing a system of audits to assure compliance. There really are no excuses now. One of the most damning parts of the Haselberger affidavit is the section that shows how easily the authorities in St. Paul misrepresented their compliance with the Dallas Charter.

It is also important to draw a distinction between the charges leveled against Archbishop Nienstedt. There are essentially two sets of charges, first that he failed in his responsibility to abide by the Dallas Charter and, second, that he himself has engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior. I do not really care if +Nienstedt made inappropriate advances with adults, although the charge that those adults included seminarians and clergy raises the possibility of exploitation and creating a hostile work environment, to be sure. Those charges matter for a reason, which I will get to in a minute, but the principal charge, the charge on which the credibility of the entire hierarchy is now resting, is the degree to which the Dallas Charter was violated. That Charter was the promise the bishops as a whole made to the Church. That Charter was understood to be sufficiently rigorous to justify erecting, in our minds, a dividing line between pre-Dallas and post-Dallas, and hoping that the scourge of clergy sex abuse of minors was being rooted out. If +Nienstedt – or any other bishop – is shown to have violated the Charter, they should go.

The charge of inappropriate sexual activity with adults matters for a different reason. Reading the Haselberger affidavit, and the depositions of others in leadership in the St. Paul chancery, a portrait of +Nienstedt emerges. Whatever his intentions, those who worked most closely with him experienced him as aloof at best, deeply conflicted at worst. It is impossible to lead an organization if frank communication and conversation is unwelcome. In vetting candidates for the episcopacy, it is vital that the nuncio and the Congregation for Bishops seek out candidates who invite frankness, who are not aloof, who are not condescending. Recently, I was discussing one such candidate with a bishop and I remarked that I had only met the priest once but found him very condescending to me. The bishop said that he had met the man and not found him to be so. “Well, he wouldn’t be to you, would he?” I replied. I do not know the degree to which inquiries are made when vetting candidates, but it must include someone outside the closed world of chancery personnel, someone who might have been in a position to see a candidate’s true colors, to be able to let the nuncio know that however charming a given candidate might be within the clerical culture, they wear a different face to the people they will be expected to serve and to lead. We need more candidates with real flesh-and-blood pastoral experience with people and fewer seminary rectors and former Vatican staffers in the ranks of the hierarchy.

Aloof is bad enough. Conflicted is more disturbing. You did not need to wait to read the Haselberger affidavit to know that something about +Nienstedt was a little off. In February 2006, while still serving as the Bishop of New Ulm, +Nienstedt took exception to the movie “Brokeback Mountain.” He raised his objection in the pages of his diocesan newspaper, in which he gave a brief synopsis of the movie’s plot, including these sentences: “The story is about two lonely cowboys herding sheep up on a mountain range. One night after a drinking binge, one man makes a pass at the other and within seconds the latter mounts the former in an act of wanton anal sex.” Now, I do not know about New Ulm, but here in the Archdiocese of Washington, I think I may be the only person under sixty who reads our diocesan newspaper. Did little old pious gentlemen and ladies in New Ulm really need to encounter the phrase “wanton anal sex” on a cold Sunday morning in 2006? Surely, that phrase was not included for the benefit of the readers.

Why, then, was it included? I am not a shrink. Indeed, I am not even very good at reading other people’s emotions. But, even a modicum of common sense should’ve tipped off anyone thinking of promoting +Nienstedt to St. Paul that such explicitness in the forum of a diocesan newspaper evidenced a lack of propriety, of boundaries, on the issue of homosexuality. And, again stipulating that I am no psychiatrist, in my experience, people tend to get such boundaries wrong when they are themselves conflicted, especially when the issue is sex. Perhaps, no one at the Congregation for Bishops noticed or cared about +Nienstedt’s essay on “Brokeback Mountain.” Perhaps, too, so many clergy and so many bishops have experienced so many conflicted personalities he just blended in, the alarm bells did not go off, he had a powerful patron, the promotion was made. And, when Archbishop Nienstedt became the face of opposition to same-sex marriage, launching an expensive campaign and seemingly discussing nothing else for several months, how many people and how many clergy in St. Paul looked at him, then looked at each other, and murmured “Me thinks the lady doth protest too much.” I heard it then, and since, and I have never been to Minnesota!

My heart goes out to anyone who is deeply conflicted about sex or anything else. (And, all of us have, or should have, some degree of conflict on such personal issues to be sure.) But, when a conflicted person visits his conflictedness on the people of God, those same people can be forgiven for questioning the moral authority of their bishop. One of the saddest things about this whole mess in St. Paul is the realization that virtually no one has expressed any love for their bishop. The depositions and the affidavits paint the picture of a person removed from normal human interactions. Whether he abided by the Charter or not, whether he had inappropriate sexual relations with adults or not, how did this man become a bishop? And, while I worry about mob justice, and the prospect of trial lawyers focusing on bishops they do not like and trying to pull them down, I worry more that unless and until we select bishops who are not so obviously conflicted, men who have not only the smell of the sheep but an evident love for the company of the sheep, and a willingness to speak and be spoken to with candor and frankness, in short, men who are healthy as well as holy, we risk more crises like the one engulfing St. Paul today. In any event, it is time for +Nienstedt to spare the good people of St. Paul further anxiousness, submit his resignation, and hope that a new bishop can come in, make a fresh start, and prove himself capable of leading his flock into a less troubled future. It is time for him to go.

Archbishop Nienstedt needs to go. Now.

Reuben Rosario
Pioneer Press
July 18, 2014

I picked up a summer must-read this past week. It has drama, conflict, intrigue and zips along at 107 pages.

No. It's not "Invisible" by James Patterson, though I really wish it were fiction. This read has a decidedly boring title: "Affidavit of Jennifer M. Haselberger."

It should be retitled "The Archdiocese That Forgot Christ," for this is really what it is: a scathing account of how top church officials from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis put kids and adults at risk.

It is the best argument yet, since the local clergy abuse and mismanagement scandal broke months ago, that Archbishop John Nienstedt should step down or if he refuses, be removed from his post.

I'm not saying this lightly. He is, as Haselberger told me, "my archbishop." But he needs to go for the good of the church and the good people in it. Now.

A turning point for me, as it was for Haselberger, who served as chancellor for canonical affairs from 2008 to April 2013, were statements Nienstedt made after he celebrated Mass at a church in Edina last December. This was two months after Haselberger, reportedly rebuffed at every attempt to expose alleged cover-ups or mishandling of abusive and misbehaving priests, contacted Minnesota Public Radio and publicly bared the goings-on.

Nienstedt told reporters that he believed the issue of clergy abuse had been taken care of by the time he became archbishop in 2008 and that he was surprised when the news stories broke. Given that he had indeed reviewed recent clergy abuse files and that a priest was convicted the summer before of abusing two children, Haselberger almost fell out of her chair.

"To see an archbishop, who had recently celebrated Mass and was still vested and holding his crosier, lie to the faithful in such a boldfaced manner was heartbreaking to me," Haselberger wrote in the affidavit, which is part of a clergy abuse civil case filed by St. Paul attorney Jeffrey Anderson on behalf of a former child abuse victim.

"When he said those things, he knew he was lying," Haselberger told me last week. "And he knew that I knew that he was lying. And anybody who was associated with this work and knew him, knew he was lying. That to me is what is so hard about it."


Haselberger's affidavit paints a disturbing picture of church officials acting more like a cabal of corporate schemers or a power-driven presidential administration run amok than shepherds of the state's largest Roman Catholic diocese.

Haselberger details how archdiocese officials gave special payments to abusive priests, allowed others to continue in public ministry and failed to notify authorities of abuse allegations in violation of a 2002 churchwide policy.

In the case of the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer, Haselberger warned Nienstedt and others of his sexual proclivities and habit of trying to pick up men. Not only were her concerns ignored, Wehmeyer was promoted to pastor of a church on St. Paul's East Side before his conviction for molesting two boys in his parish.

These were not allegations decades old. They were recent. There's the tale of former Vicar General Peter Laird's attempt to declare disabled Father Mike Tegeder of St. Frances Cabrini Church in Minneapolis because of his criticisms of Nienstedt in the debate over the proposed marriage amendment to outlaw same-sex marriage. Laird resigned soon after Haselberger's concerns were made public.

"You can quote me that I find him unabled," Tegeder said Friday of Nienstedt.

Haselberger also takes aim at Laird's longtime predecessor, the Rev. Kevin McDonough, who served as the archdiocese's point person for handling clergy abuse allegations. McDonough, according to Haselberger, took a softer approach on abusive priests and essentially gave lip service to abuse victims. She recalls in astonishment the day he asked her to see a document of dismissal, which is essentially a letter formally kicking a cleric out of the priesthood, because he had never seen one before.

Nienstedt apparently has an ornery side to him, warning folks not to bother him and sending critical emails to church subordinates that one described as "nastygrams," according to the affidavit.

Haselberger recounts how Laird basically ignored her concerns and refused to read documents about a priest, removed from ministry just this year, who had a sexual attraction to young boys.

"I literally followed Father Laird out of the building one evening with those highlighted documents in my hands, saying that if he didn't have time to read the whole documents, he could at least read the highlighted remarks. He refused," Haselberger wrote.

Laird's reaction, Haselberger noted, was just one example of a "cavalier attitude toward the safety of children."

Cavalier? More like shameful.


It wasn't easy for Haselberger to turn whistleblower. She's nobody's fool and a woman of faith. She knows of many others within the church who knew what she knew but did not come forward for fear of reprisals.

"I hated that," she said.

She desired and trusted the church hierarchy to do right by children and vulnerable adults. She tried all internal channels to set things right. When those were rebuffed, her conscience ordered her to go outside the wire.

It's interesting how she was first characterized by church officials as a "disgruntled employee" after the first stories were published. I would have been disgruntled as well, given what she put up with. That was before thousands of internal church documents, including many ordered released by a judge in a civil suit, corroborated her accounts of events. This week, this is what church officials said about the affidavit: "Her experience highlights the importance of ongoing constructive dialogue and reform aimed at insuring the safety of children."


Nienstedt, now the subject of an internal church probe into allegations he may have had inappropriate relationships with seminarians and others, did put in place a task force on church policies and hired a law firm to review all clergy abuse files. Frankly, he should have done that before Haselberger was forced to go public. That's what leaders do.

If he was the CEO of a corporation, he would have been canned already, sent off with a golden parachute. But he is an archbishop in a top-down, male-dominated religious hierarchy that rarely polices itself on anything and is acutely hostile to a probing secular world and any attempts at outside scrutiny. We'll see what he does, though the church problems are endemic and entrenched.

"There are plenty of good priests out there, but they have been drinking the Kool-Aid for so long that they do not even know it," Haselberger said.

I asked Haselberger who or what kind of archbishop she would like to see take over. She would not speculate on names. But she spoke highly of Denver's current archbishop, Samuel Aquila, who was formerly bishop of Fargo, N.D. Haselberger worked for Aquila as the bishop's delegate in 2007-08.

"He had zero tolerance for shenanigans," she said. "I would say a no-nonsense kind of guy with more or less a pastor's heart."

That sounds good to me.

Deadline nears for claims against bankrupt Stockton Catholic diocese

Matthias Gafni
Contra Costa Times
July 18, 2014

Anyone abused by a priest or other Stockton Catholic diocese employee and who wants to sue has less than a month to file a claim as part of a bankruptcy deadline established for the religious organization that claims abuse settlements and judgments have emptied church coffers.

A priest abuse survivor's group held a news conference Wednesday outside the Stockton diocese headquarters to draw attention to the Aug. 15 deadline and push the diocese to increase public outreach of the upcoming date.

The Stockton diocese, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January, is the 10th Catholic diocese across the country to file for such protections. The Stockton diocese has already paid out $14 million over the past two decades to settle abuse cases, and the diocese in May established a phone hotline for additional abuse victims to call for information on claims.

Attorney James Stang, whose law firm has been hired to man the hotline, said he's received about 10 calls, meaning the organization could be hit with additional claims.

Victim advocates are disappointed the diocese's bankruptcy filing will likely limit monetary payments and perhaps leave some victims out if they miss the pending deadline.

"After that deadline, it may be impossible for compensation for damages regarding child sexual abuse," said Melanie Sakoda, the East Bay director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "(The diocese) contributed to the problem. There wouldn't have been so many victims if they acted responsibly in the first place."

Stockton diocese Bishop Stephen Blaire, in a letter to parishioners announcing the bankruptcy filing in January, wrote: "Very simply, we are in this situation because of those priests in our diocese who perpetrated grave, evil acts of child sexual abuse. We can never forget that these evil acts, not the victims of the abuse, are responsible for the financial difficulties we now face."

In the bankruptcy filing, the diocese claimed to owe more than $2 million in debts, including a $500,000 victim settlement. It points to four pending abuse lawsuits involving three John Does and a Jane Doe as the impetus for filing bankruptcy.

"We believe that filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection is the only way the Diocese of Stockton can continue the ministries and support it offers to Catholic parishes and communities, and fulfill the responsibilities it has to victims of sexual abuse, particularly those who have not yet had their day in court," Blaire wrote in January.

Included in the bankruptcy court documents was a list of 11 confirmed clergy abusers who served across the diocese, including at St. Bernard's Parish in Tracy.

"To some victims, particularly the young ones, it was just Father Michael or Father Pat, but they don't know the priest's full name," Stang said of the reason the priest's full names and assignments were provided.

The abuse does not have to be limited to the 11 listed priests. At Wednesday's news conference, the survivor's group handed out a list of six other priests convicted, arrested or accused of abuse who spent time within the Stockton diocese.

The advocacy group had concerns because the phone hotline was not operational from June 25 to July 7 as Stang's office changed phone systems. However, Stang said Wednesday the phone line tracks caller phone numbers, and no one called the Stockton diocese hotline during those two weeks.

The attorney said he personally returns calls and provides information to the callers on how to file a claim, and claimants then join a committee consisting of abuse victims. After the deadline passes, a pot of money will be negotiated, and based on the total number of claims, a protocol will be devised on how the money will be disbursed, Stang said.

The Stockton diocese has said it published newspaper advertisements, shared the claim information in church newsletters and conducted other outreach to alert parishioners of the upcoming deadline.

In addition to Stockton, these Catholic diocese have declared bankruptcy because of sexual abuse liabilities, according to The Wall Street Journal: Milwaukee; San Diego; Spokane, Washington; Davenport, Iowa; Portland, Oregon; Tucson, Arizona; Fairbanks, Alaska; Wilmington, Delaware; and Gallup, New Mexico; as well as the Christian Brothers Institute, which operates Catholic schools and orphanages.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Santa Rosa diocese pays $3.5 million to settle final pending molestation case

Jeremy Hay
Press Democrat, Santa Rosa,CA
July 16, 2014

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa has paid $3.5 million to a teenager who was molested by a Lakeport priest, one of the largest settlements paid out by the North Coast diocese in a series of sexual abuse cases that spanned more than two decades.

An attorney for the victim attributed the settlement's size partly to the church's failure to protect children from the Rev. Ted Oswald, even though it was aware he had abused others. Oswald molested the boy, then 12, in 2010, the same year the priest died, with some of the incidents taking place in the Lakeport parish church.

"But for the diocese's actions, it is entirely possible that this 12-year-old boy would never have been molested," said Skye Daley, the victim's attorney.

Bishop Robert F. Vasa, who has led the diocese since 2011, was on vacation Tuesday and unavailable for comment. Diocese spokesman Brian O'Neel rejected Daley's assertion.

"When the diocese became aware of this most recent allegation, they removed Father Oswald from ministry and reported the situation to civil authorities," O'Neel said. "The diocese could not do more than the civil authorities could."

The settlement, announced late Tuesday, resolves the last known such case against the diocese, O'Neel said.

In a statement, Vasa apologized to the boy and other victims who suffered at the hands of pedophiles in the church.

"I humbly apologize to this young person on behalf of the Church that failed to protect them. I also take this occasion to apologize to all victims for the harm done to them. This perversity, though prevalent in all parts of society, was allowed to persist in the Church for too long," Vasa said.

The diocese, which serves about 160,000 Catholics from Petaluma to the Oregon border, has paid about $25 million to sex abuse victims since 1990. The payment announced Tuesday appears to be one of the larger settlements for a single victim nationwide, experts said.

"Offhand, I can think of a couple of settlements higher, but I suspect that there haven't been many," said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, a victim support group.

A 2008 lawsuit involving two other Oswald victims -- who were abused between 1988 and 1995 -- was settled by the Santa Rosa diocese in 2009 for $1.3 million.

The diocese paid out $5 million in 2007, but the settlement was split among five victims of the Rev. Xavier Ochoa, a Sonoma priest.

Tuesday's statement issued by the diocese was striking for the degree to which it conceded Oswald's guilt, which the diocese had not done in the 2009 settlement involving the priest.

Its first sentence was: "The Diocese of Santa Rosa today announced it has paid what it characterized as a 'significant settlement' to a victim of the deceased Fr. Oswald, who died in 2010."

Vasa said in the statement: "The settlement involves a lot of money. It does not, however, restore peace and tranquility to this child of God. I pray this can come in time."

The diocese did not reveal financial terms. Daley, the victim's attorney, disclosed the amount.

The money will be paid primarily from insurance reserves, according to the diocese. The settlement will not affect existing ministries and none of the funds will come from the diocese's Capital Campaign or Annual Ministries Appeal, O'Neel said.

Daley said his client was molested in 2010. By that time, he said, church officials already knew Oswald had abused other children.

"The church was on notice that Father Oswald was a child molester well before my child was ever abused," Daley said.

Daley filed the lawsuit in 2013, five years after the first lawsuit accusing Oswald of molesting children. The case, he said, included letters from then-Bishop Daniel Walsh stating "the allegations (outlined in the 2008 lawsuit against Oswald) were credible."

While pressuring Oswald to resign, the diocese had allowed him to remain a priest, Daley said. Although it forced him out of parish housing, the diocese approved his new home a mile from St. Mary Immaculate Church, the lawyer said.

The youth was an altar boy and a student at the parish school. He also participated in a youth group led by Oswald, according to the lawsuit. Some of the abuse, which involved plying the boy with alcohol and repeatedly groping him over a two-month period, took place in the church, Daley said.

Asked if Vasa's statement referring to Daley's client and other victims -- that "the church failed to protect them" -- was an acknowledgment that the diocese had any responsibility in the case, O'Neel said, "People will draw from it whatever they're going to draw from it."

In the statement, Vasa said the diocese has policies and procedures in place to deal with reports of sexual abuse but that "everyone in every parish and every school needs to cooperate with them" to ensure children's safety.

"Sadly, evil will still occur, but it will not ever be tolerated," he said.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese whistleblower describes lax monitoring of priests

Jean Hopfensperger
Star Tribune
July 15, 2014

Jennifer Haselberger, the whistleblower who exposed troubling clergy child abuse practices in the Twin Cities archdiocese, offers further details of the church’s protection of abusing priests in an affidavit filed in Ramsey County District Court Tuesday morning.

Haselberger described the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis as a place where child abusers were given repeated opportunitiesto remain in the priesthood, where “monitoring” was lax or nonexistent, and where investigations into abuse complaints often missed key interviews and resulted in findings that favored priests.

Financial deals were frequently cut with priests who agreed to step down from ministry, she said. Some, however, tried to come back — even after serving jail time.

The archdiocese, she wrote, had a “cavalier attitude toward the safety of other people’s children.”

The written testimony of Haselberger, an archdiocese canon lawyer before resigning last year, comes in response to an explosive lawsuit filed on behalf of a man who claims former priest Tom Adamson abused him in the 1970s.

Haselberger is one of the major players in the resulting sex abuse scandal rocking the archdiocese. A canon lawyer who worked for the archdiocese for all but two years between 2004 and 2013, she is among key critics with direct knowledge of child sex abuse practices.

The lawsuit was filed shortly after Minnesota changed its statutes of limitations to allow older abuse cases to be heard by the courts. The changes in law, combined with Haselberger’s public disclosures about church practices, set the stage for the unprecedented revelations now being made public about how the church handled abusive clergy.

Her written testimony is important because if lawyers are to argue that the archdiocese has created a “public nuisance,” it requires evidence of continued practices that endanger children.

The archdiocese has not commented on the claims.

The 107-page affidavit includes Haselberger’s assessment of the archdiocese’s abuse policies and practices, as well as challenges to the sworn testimony of Archbishop John Nienstedt and former Vicar General Peter Laird. It alleges a variety of troubling church practices.

• The culture at the archdiocese was for top officials not to dig deep into priest personnel files, she said. Haselberger said the archdiocese’s attorney told her to “ ‘stop looking under rocks,’ knowing how upset it made me to see how things had been mishandled...”

• Former Vicar General Kevin McDonough’s practice of placing child sex offenders in administrative positions was not permitted under policies made by the U.S. Conference of Bishops, she said, and it posed a public danger.

Haselberger cites the example of a priest, whose named was edited from the affidavit, who abused at least one female under age 18, yet was permitted to minister during and after the time he was in a sex offender program in the 1990s.

“I was, and remain, deeply impacted by the suffering caused by [Father] in part because it was the first case that I worked on that involved a victim who committed suicide...’ ” she wrote.

• Abusive priests who were required to be monitored fell into four categories: “being monitored, formerly monitored, requiring monitoring but never monitored, discussed but never monitored,” said Haselberger, citing a church report.

Even when monitored, priests had little oversight. Wrote Haselberger: “McDonough’s program relied heavily on self reports of the priests ... with very little effort made to verify if those reports were accurate.”

• Haselberger offers examples of priest misconduct with children and adults. In 2013, for example, Haselberger said that she and an archdiocese attorney were appointed to investigate allegations that a priest had been hiring a prostitute at his parish.

After the priest was threatened with extortion for more than $30,000 — and the prostitute showed up at the chancery seeking payments — Haselberger said then-vicar general Peter Laird “refused to allow us to review parish financial reports or to speak with the bookkeeper... and constantly harassed us to conclude the investigation with the limited information we had assembled.”

Disability payments

The archdiocese has acknowledged it has made disability payments to priests based on their pedophilia. Haselberger places accountability for those payments squarely on the archbishops. Under the Priest Pension Plans, disability decisions are the “exclusive prerogative of the Archbishop,” she wrote. No medical diagnosis is necessary.

Haselberger said that Laird wanted the archbishop to declare the Rev. Michael Tegeder of Minneapolis disabled as a means to silence his opposition to Nienstedt’s campaign for a constitutional amendment to prevent same-sex marriage.

Haselberger also was critical of Nienstedt’s statements last year that no abusing priests were in ministry, something that simply wasn’t true, she said. She cited the case of the Rev. Joseph Gallatin, then pastor at the Church of St. Peter in Mendota Heights.

She said even before the St. Peter assignment, Gallatin’s personnel file indicated “the sexual nature of his contact with a boy in West Virginia and his admitted sexual attraction to boys as young as twelve...”

Gallatin was placed on leave of absence in December 2013.

Haselberger claims that vicar general Laird refused to read the full personnel file on Gallatin, and paints a picture of the vicar general throughout her testimony as a man more focused on remodeling the chancery and expanding his career than addressing child abuse.

Laird’s court deposition indicates the chancery was engaged in constant innovation about its child abuse policies. But, said Haselberger, “we were far, far from best practice.”

Monday, July 14, 2014

Church of England votes to allow women to become bishops

John Bingham
Daily Telegraph
July 14, 2014

When the end finally came, it could have been mistaken for the resolution of a council committee over some trifling town centre planning dispute.

But as the legal registrar of the General Synod, dramatically attired in wig and flowing white collar, completed the formalities in dry sonorous tones, it was the moment the Established Church entered the 21st Century.

It is the last great institution of British life to open its upper reaches to people of both genders. For the first time since Christianity arrived in that part of the world, the church in England can now be led by a woman.


It has taken a century of campaigning and 40 years of often bitter legal wrangling. Perhaps because of this, Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, had instructed members of the General Synod, sitting in York, that the results of the historic vote must be heard in silence.

He had politely turned down a request for normal rules to be suspended, insisting that the procedures must be respected until all formalities had been completed.

Nonetheless, a handful of supporters in the public gallery briefly whooped with joy. They were quickly shushed, finding themselves on the receiving end of some fierce clerical stares from the Archbishop of Canterbury himself, Justin Welby, and Dr Sentamu. "The Africans always say, let's keep the best dish to the end," he told them.

And so it was on this occasion. When the time came for the celebration to begin, Dr Sentamu led the way. He stood on the platform and began singing the African hymn 'We Are Marching in the Light of God', leading hundreds in song. While most sang and clapped along with typical Anglican reserve, a handful seized the opportunity to dance in their rows, including a brief, awkward turn from Justin Welby.

When Dr Sentamu ended the meeting with the words, "Thank you Father, Son and Holy Spirit," the chamber erupted into raucous applause.

The vote, passed by an overwhelming majority, came less than two years after the shock defeat of legislation to allow women bishops sent the church spiralling into its biggest crisis in modern times.

Yesterday's decision now clears the way for the first female bishops to be appointed as early as Christmas and raises the very real possibility that the next Archbishop of Canterbury or York will be a woman.

Outside the concrete conference hall where the vote took place champagne corks were popping as members rushed out to celebrate.

Among those was the Rev Kat Campion-Spall (35), a curate in Merton, south-west London, who been at the previous vote with her baby daughter Astrid in her arms to bear witness to what she had hoped would be history being made.

This time her children were at home with their father and she was celebrating with gusto.

"This is everything that we hoped for then and more," she said.

"It is just wonderful that at last we can move on."

Sally Barnes, whose late husband the Rev Prebendary Donald Barnes was one of the pioneers of the campaign for women's ordination, broke into tears as the results of the vote were read out.

"I just thought how he would have rejoiced – I wish he could have been physically here, I know people say he will be rejoicing in Heaven."

The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev John Pritchard, was among the crowds sipping champagne from plastic cups outside.

"This means at least we have now got a fully functioning church where every human being is capable of answering God's call," he said.

"At last we can achieve a fully healthy church with all the gifts of humankind available to our leadership to enrich the church and our message to the world."

Joining in among the hugs and tears were some who had voted against the legislation.


Father David Houlding, an Anglo-Catholic who once staunchly opposed the ordination of women bishops, said he had voted against on grounds of conscience but wished the legislation well.

"I'm relieved it has just gone through with such good arrangements in place, because it could once have gone through without those arrangements and then it would have been really serious," he said.

The Rev Preb Rod Thomas, leader of the traditionalist Reform evangelical group, said he took reassurance from the public pledge of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, that he would personally ensure arrangements promised to enable traditionalists to "flourish" in the Church of England after women bishops would be stuck to.

"If I did not think that was likely I could not support this legislation," the archbishop insisted.

"You don't chuck out family or even make it difficult for them to be at home, you love them and seek their well-being even when you disagree." (© Daily Telegraph, London)