Thursday, August 28, 2014

Catholic church must welcome 'unconventional couples' says top Italian bishop

Josephine McKenna
Religion News Service
August 28, 2014

The Catholic Church should make “unconventional couples” feel at home instead of making them targets of “de facto discrimination,” the leader of the Italian Bishops Conference and an ally of Pope Francis said this week.

Pope Francis greets people as he visits Cassano allo Ionio, in Italy's Calabria region, June 21, 2014. On his left is Bishop Nunzio Galantino of Cassano allo Ionio. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic New Service

“Couples in irregular matrimonial situations are also Christians, but they are sometimes looked upon with prejudice,” said Bishop Nunzio Galantino, an apparent reference to divorced and remarried Catholics.

“The burden of exclusion from the sacraments is an unjustified price to pay, in addition to de facto discrimination,” he said Wednesday (Aug. 27) in an address to a national conference on liturgy in the Italian hill town of Orvieto.

Galantino was Francis’ choice in March to lead the fractious Italian hierarchy, and from the beginning the bishop has adopted the pontiff’s inclusive approach. That has often landed Galantino in hot water, as he has spoken about the need for the church to welcome gays and to consider optional celibacy for the priesthood.

But Galantino has not softened his views, which are especially newsworthy because in October the Vatican will host a major conference of the world’s top bishops, called a synod, to discuss issues facing the modern family.

How to deal with gay and cohabiting couples is a likely topic of discussion, but the question of whether Catholics who have divorced and remarried without an annulment can take Communion has emerged as a focal point of disputes among bishops.

That’s because the issue is a test case of whether the church under Francis will, or can, change its policies relating to the central sacrament of Communion. Some say such a change is impossible, while others say that changes are not only possible but imperative given that so many couples have divorced and remarried and feel alienated from the church.

Galantino’s remarks were widely reported in Italian media, including Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian hierarchy, and were translated by the Italian news agency ANSA.

In his talk, Galantino, who is secretary-general of the Italian Bishops Conference, stressed that everyone should “feel at home” in the church, and especially at Mass — including migrants, the disabled, the poor and those in unconventional relationships.

He spoke about the need for churches to make their buildings accessible for those with disabilities, for example, and said Catholics should take care that the poor are not treated differently from the wealthy at Mass.

But he appeared to send a strong message about divorced and remarried Catholics who are excluded from the sacraments.

“They live in their situation with great suffering,” he said, “and they perceive the church’s regulations as very severe, not compassionate if not punitive.”

Spanish appointment tells Curia heads: you can go home again

John Thavis
August 28, 2014

A new chapter in Pope Francis’ revolution was written today when the pope named Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera as archbishop of Valencia, Spain.

The appointment was remarkable mainly because it violated the age-old Roman Curia maxim, “You can’t go home again.” Cardinal Cañizares was being sent back to Valencia, where he was ordained a priest 44 years ago, after a five-year stint as head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

Traditionally, Roman Curia department heads, especially if they’re cardinals, stay on the job until retirement. And after they retire, most continue to reside in Rome rather than returning to pastoral work in their home countries.

I’ve argued that if Pope Francis really wants to emphasize service over prestige in Vatican appointments, he should make it clear that those called to Rome are there temporarily, with no guarantee of career advancement, and can expect to return home after their five-year term is over.

That’s what’s happening to Cardinal Cañizares. A theologian known in Rome as the “little Ratzinger,” he was archbishop of Toledo when he was picked by Pope Benedict to head the liturgy congregation, where he presided over a series of conservative decisions (his latest instruction was to tone down the exchange of the sign of peace during Mass, to reflect greater “sobriety” in liturgy.)

The 68-year-old Cañizares was tipped by Spanish sources in recent months as a possible new archbishop of Madrid. Instead, he’s going to Valencia, a smaller and less important archdiocese. Madrid, also announced today, went to Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra, who had headed the Valencia archdiocese.

No one has yet been appointed as Cañizares’ successor at the Vatican's liturgy congregation.

It will be interesting to see if Pope Francis is willing to send younger department heads back to pastoral service after a few years at the Vatican, rather than keeping them on forever. The turnover would be good for the church, and would remind the prelates that their time in Rome is a sacrifice, not a career move.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Polish diplomat raises extradition for Vatican official accused of sex abuse

Josephine McKenna
National Catholic Reporter
August 27, 2014

Poland's ambassador to the Holy See has forcefully condemned the alleged sexual abuse of children by a Polish-born former archbishop and Vatican diplomat, and said Warsaw is considering a fresh request to extradite Jozef Wesolowski to face trial in his homeland.

Ambassador Piotr Nowina-Konopka said Wednesday that the Polish government was reviewing its options after the Vatican announced this week that the former papal envoy to the Dominican Republic had been defrocked and no longer had diplomatic immunity.

"We are currently analyzing the situation regarding immunity," the ambassador told Religion News Service in remarks that were unusually frank for a diplomat, especially one from a country that is as strongly Catholic as Poland.

"Without doubt Poland considers the acts that the archbishop is alleged to have carried out as particularly repugnant and Pope Francis' firm approach to that type of crime has won great respect and full support in Poland," Nowina-Konopka said.

Wesolowski, the 66-year-old former papal envoy to the Dominican Republic, was quietly recalled from Santo Domingo in August 2013 after rumors emerged that he had sexually molested young boys there. But he is also wanted on sex abuse charges in Poland, though details of the charges were not known.

Polish authorities unsuccessfully sought to extradite the former archbishop last year; Nowina-Konopka said the request was rejected by the Vatican.

He said a fresh request could not be made until Wesolowski was processed under canon law.

The Polish-born Wesolowski was a highly respected ambassador for the Holy See and had been ordained both as a priest and a bishop by the late Polish pope, St. John Paul II, when he was archbishop in Krakow.

In June, Wesolowski was defrocked after a Vatican tribunal found him guilty of abusing young boys following an investigation by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which handles sex-abuse cases. He recently appealed that sentence, and a final decision is expected in October.

After a front-page story in The New York Times on Sunday detailed how Wesolowski allegedly targeted boys for sex, the Vatican's chief spokesman, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, said Wesolowski had also lost his diplomatic immunity and could face charges in other countries once the Vatican case runs its course.

On Wednesday, Lombardi declined to comment on the case or provide the former archbishop's current whereabouts.

Once the Vatican's legal process is complete, Wesolowski may first face extradition to the Dominican Republic. The Italian news agency ANSA on Wednesday cited Dominican reports saying investigators would hear from alleged victims at a new inquiry scheduled for Sept. 2.

Pope Francis has faced criticism from victims advocates and others for bringing Wesolowski back to Rome to face charges there rather than waiving diplomatic immunity and letting him go to trial in the Dominican Republic.

The critics say Wesolowski -- who has been spotted by fellow bishops strolling around Rome's historic district -- has been treated with kid gloves and that belies the pope's vow to crack down on abusers regardless of their rank.

But the Vatican and others defend Francis, saying that he has acted swiftly and used the proper legal process, one that will likely result in Wesolowski facing secular as well as church courts.

"Wesolowski has allegedly committed wrongs against his victims and against his priestly state that led to his laicization but he has also committed crimes against the law of the sovereign that issued his nationality as a diplomat," Fr. Robert John Araujo, a Jesuit priest and law professor at Loyola University in Chicago, wrote on the Catholic legal blog Mirror of Justice.

"All things being considered, it appears that the Holy See acted as expeditiously as any sovereign would be obliged to do," he said.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Cardinal Pell drives further into failure

Brisbane Times
August 25, 2014

Leadership is about asking a simple, profound question - ''is this right?'' - and then acting appropriately in response. On this measure, Cardinal George Pell, who now resides in the Vatican after his stints as archbishop of Sydney and before that of Melbourne, has serially failed.

His performance throughout the slow and painful emergence of evidence during the past few decades of rape and other abuse of children by Catholic priests on occasions has been disgraceful.

Let there be no mistake: he has been at the pinnacle of an important organisation - one in which so much trust is placed - that has sought to minimise the financial and reputational damage to itself of the despicable criminal behaviour of some of its clergy. It is an organisation that previously even protected perpetrators by covering up their crimes. Instead of seeking prosecution of these men, this is a church that in some instances merely transferred them to other dioceses, where their predatory acts continued. As the chairwoman of the recent Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child abuse, Liberal MP Georgie Crozier, said early in the hearings: ''The evidence is quite clear; the criminal sexual abuse of children occurred under the watch of the Catholic Church and it was covered up … These facts are not in dispute.''

Up until it was announced in November 2012, then-Archbishop Pell had argued that the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse was not needed. His latest failure to show leadership, let alone empathy or compassion, came last Thursday when he appeared before that commission. He asserted that by setting up its internal investigations, compensation and counselling unit, known as the Melbourne Response, in 1996 when he was archbishop of Melbourne, his church had been ''ahead of the curve''. While the Melbourne Response was indeed an improvement on the church's earlier failure to do other than try to conceal the crimes, it was shown by the experience of victims to be far from adequate. It can be seen as part of a pattern of damage control by the church, rather than appropriate atonement and compensation for damage to children and their families and loved ones.

Astonishingly, Cardinal Pell on Thursday likened his church's responsibility for the behaviour of its clergy to that of a trucking company for the behaviour of its drivers. It was consistent with the insensitive dissembling he has long shown. Anthony Foster, the father of two tragically abused daughters, has personally encountered this comportment from Cardinal Pell, whom he described as showing ''a sociopathic lack of empathy''.

The many kind and decent priests, nuns and parishioners in the Catholic Church are, in a different way, victims of the crimes perpetrated by a small but significant minority of priests. They, too, are being let down by the Cardinal Pell's ''leadership''. When he was president of the United States, Harry Truman famously kept a sign of his desk that said: ''The buck stops here.'' It was a sign of leadership. Cardinal Pell clearly does not see leadership the way Truman did. Last week, with the royal commission examining the Melbourne Response that he had established, Cardinal Pell felt it appropriate to appear via video link from the Vatican rather than make the time to fly to Melbourne and appear in person. It was a further insult to the victims of his church.

In the absence of him taking proper responsibility, it is better for the Catholic Church that Cardinal Pell has left Australia. The head of a trucking company whose drivers committed heinous crimes would he held to account. He would resign or be forced out. That would be the appropriate response to the question, ''is this right?''

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Whisked away by the Vatican

Laurie Goodstein
New York Times
v August 23, 2014

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — He was a familiar figure to the skinny shoeshine boys who work along the oceanfront promenade here. Wearing black track pants and a baseball cap pulled low over his balding head, they say, he would stroll along in the late afternoon and bring one of them down to the rocky shoreline or to a deserted monument for a local Catholic hero.

The boys say he gave them money to perform sexual acts. They called him “the Italian” because he spoke Spanish with an Italian accent.

It was only after he was spirited out of the country, the boys say, his picture splashed all over the local news media, that they learned his real identity: Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, the Vatican’s ambassador to the Dominican Republic.

“He definitely seduced me with money,” said Francis Aquino Aneury, who says he was 14 when the man he met shining shoes began offering him increasingly larger sums for sexual acts. “I felt very bad. I knew it wasn’t the right thing to do, but I needed the money.”

The case is the first time that a top Vatican ambassador, or nuncio — who serves as a personal envoy of the pope — has been accused of sexual abuse of minors. It has sent shock waves through the Vatican and two predominantly Catholic countries that have only begun to grapple with clergy sexual abuse: the Dominican Republic and Poland, where Mr. Wesolowski was ordained by the Polish prelate who later became Pope John Paul II.

It has also created a test for Pope Francis, who has called child sexual abuse “such an ugly crime” and pledged to move the Roman Catholic Church into an era of “zero tolerance.” For priests and bishops who have violated children, he told reporters in May, “There are no privileges.”

Mr. Wesolowski has already faced the harshest penalty possible under the church’s canon law, short of excommunication: on June 27, he was defrocked by the Vatican, reducing him to the status of a layman. The Vatican, which as a city-state has its own judicial system, has also said it intends to try Mr. Wesolowski on criminal charges — the first time the Vatican has held a criminal trial for sexual abuse.

But far from settling the matter, the Vatican has stirred an outcry because it helped Mr. Wesolowski avoid criminal prosecution and a possible jail sentence in the Dominican Republic. Acting against its own guidelines for handling abuse cases, the church failed to inform the local authorities of the evidence against him, secretly recalled him to Rome last year before he could be investigated, and then invoked diplomatic immunity for Mr. Wesolowski so that he could not face trial in the Dominican Republic.

The Vatican’s handling of the case shows both the changes the church has made in dealing with sexual abuse, and what many critics call its failures. When it comes to removing pedophiles from the priesthood, the Vatican is moving more assertively and swiftly than before. But as Mr. Wesolowski’s case suggests, the church continues to be reluctant to report people suspected of abuse to the local authorities and allow them to face justice in secular courts.

The Vatican says that because Mr. Wesolowski was a member of its diplomatic corps and a citizen of the Holy See, the case would be handled in Rome. But even many faithful Catholics in this nation, home to the oldest Catholic cathedral in the Americas, say they are unsettled that a Vatican official could have been using children for sex, yet was not arrested and tried in their own country.

“From the pure standpoint of justice, he should be tried in the country where the acts took place because the conditions for trying him will not be the same elsewhere,” said Antonio Medina Calcaño, dean of the faculty of law and political science of the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo. “But all we can do is hope that the courts in the Vatican will treat this with the severity that it really deserves.”

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, did not say when the Wesolowski trial will start, who is representing the former nuncio, or whether he is at liberty while he awaits trial. Under Vatican law, sexual abuse charges can bring a maximum of 12 years in prison and a fine of nearly $200,000.

A Dominican bishop, Victor Masalles, visiting Rome in late June, said in a Twitter message that he was surprised to see Mr. Wesolowski “strolling the Via della Scrofa,” in the city’s picturesque ancient center. He added, “The silence of the Church has hurt the people of God.”

A Man Known as ‘The Italian’

The waterfront promenade in the Dominican capital is dominated by a 50-foot monument to the 16th-century Spanish friar Antonio de Montesinos, dressed in robes and preaching the fiery sermon that made him famous: denouncing the slavery and abuse of the indigenous people by their Spanish colonists.

It was at the heel of this colossus, on the deserted upper plaza in the shadow of the friar’s robes, Mr. Aquino said, that he was often molested by the man he knew as “the Italian.” The man always chose a bench that would allow him to see the rare visitor coming up the staircase, and would watch the boy masturbate, would touch him or would touch himself, said Mr. Aquino, now 17. Other times, they went to the rocky beach below the statue.

Mr. Aquino, whose family is originally from Haiti, left school in the eighth grade, earning $1.50 on a typical weekday by shining shoes. But he said that the man gave him more than $10 the first time they met, in 2010, to shine his shoes and to swim naked in the ocean while Mr. Wesolowski watched.

The man returned often over the next six weeks, Mr. Aquino said. But gradually the man wanted more, giving him from about $25 to as much as $135, as well as sneakers and a watch, for sexual acts. They met on and off over three years, Mr. Aquino said, but the man revealed little more than his first name, which he gave as “Josie.”

There is a mix of shame and anger among the shoeshine boys who say they knew the man. Darwin Quervedo, who is 14, said haltingly, with eyes downcast, that when he was 11, the man gave him more than $25 to watch him masturbate down by the beach. He said he felt scared, and never did it again.

When he learned much later of the man’s identity, Darwin said he thought to himself, “What kind of a man who is a priest does things like this?”

The promenade is a popular stretch for tourists and joggers. But it is also frequented by those seeking children and young men for sex. With all this activity, Mr. Wesolowski, in his track suit and running shoes, did not at first attract inordinate attention. He also chose his victims carefully, the shoe shiners said.

“He wasn’t interested in me,” said Robin Quello Cintrón, 23. “He said I was too old, that he liked the younger ones.”

“I warned the younger kids, ‘Don’t go with him,’ ” said Mr. Cintrón, adding, “But the money tempted them.”

Curbing child sexual exploitation is a pressing issue in the Dominican Republic and many countries, and the Catholic Church is among the many religious institutions that have taken up the cause.

In March, Pope Francis signed onto a campaign with other global religious leaders to fight all forms of human slavery, including child prostitution. This month, he sent a message for the opening of a refuge in Argentina for young victims of sexual exploitation.

Still, two United Nations panels in Geneva examining the church’s record on child sexual abuse questioned the Vatican this year about its handling of the Wesolowski case.

Mr. Wesolowski, 66, was ordained at 23 in Krakow by Archbishop Karol Józef Wojtyla, who later became Pope John Paul II. In 1999, he was appointed papal nuncio to Bolivia, and in 2002, he was reassigned to Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

In 2008, he was sent to the Dominican Republic. Mr. Wesolowski served as a ceremonial dean of the international diplomatic corps here, convening an annual party in honor of the country’s president. The posting came with a stately residence and access to a beach house.

On the waterfront, Mr. Wesolowski attempted to disguise his rank, the boys say. He drove a small gray-green Suzuki sport utility vehicle with rosary beads hanging from the rearview mirror, they recalled, and parked it near the monument in the colonial zone, where several streets are named for archbishops.

One day last year, Nuria Piera, a prominent television journalist, received a tip that the papal nuncio drank beer many afternoons at a waterfront restaurant, then went off with young boys.

Ms. Piera sent a video crew to surreptitiously film the nuncio, she said in an interview at CDN, where she is general director. The crew shot some video of Mr. Wesolowski drinking alone and walking the promenade, Ms. Piera said, but he noticed their presence (though not the camera), walked over, smacked his hand against their car and asked why they were following him.

After that, Ms. Piera said, he disappeared from the waterfront. Her tipster never saw him there again.

“I suspected that there may have been a leak from our own office,” Ms. Piera said.

Mr. Wesolowski began sending a young Dominican church deacon to procure children for him, law enforcement authorities in the Dominican Republic say.

The deacon, Francisco Javier Occi Reyes, was arrested by the police on June 24, 2013, accused of solicitation of minors and taken to jail. But no one came to bail him out, and the deacon sent an anguished letter dated July 2 to Mr. Wesolowski, to be delivered to him by hand at his office.

“We have offended God” and the church, the letter said, by sexually abusing children and adolescents “for crumbs of money.” The deacon wrote that he had agreed to find child victims for the nuncio so that “your sexual appetite can be satiated,” but that he was now asking God for forgiveness.

“Hopefully you will consider asking for God to help you to walk away from this evil disease of continuing to sexually abuse innocent children,” the letter said, according to a copy obtained by The New York Times from a Dominican Justice Ministry official.

The deacon sent copies of the letter to Cardinal Nicolas de Jesus López Rodriguez, the head of the church in the Dominican Republic, and to a Dominican bishop, Gregorio Nicanor Peña Rodríguez. The cardinal then carried the evidence to the Vatican, where he met directly with Pope Francis, according to interviews with the Dominican authorities. On Aug. 21 last year, Mr. Wesolowski was secretly recalled to Rome.

Six days later, the cardinal called the papal nuncio “a great friend and promoter of peace.”

Neither the cardinal, nor other church officials, reported the allegations to the local authorities, Dominican officials say. Vatican guidelines say that criminal sexual abuse accusations should be reported in countries where reporting is required.

The country’s attorney general, Francisco Domínguez Brito, and the district attorney of Santo Domingo, Yeni Berenice Reynoso Gómez, both said in interviews that they first learned about the allegations against Mr. Wesolowski from Ms. Piera’s television reports, which were broadcast in early September and included a child asserting that he had been abused.

Soon after, church officials here told local news media that Mr. Wesolowski had been recalled because of the allegations against him, prompting Cardinal Rodriguez to confirm that he had gone to the Vatican to address the matter. He and other church officials denied requests for an interview.

‘The Most Terrible Case’

The district attorney, Ms. Reynoso, said her investigators had identified four children aged 12 to 17 with whom the nuncio had sexual contact, but that there were likely others.

The 17-year-old had epilepsy, and the nuncio gave him medicine for his condition in exchange for sexual acts, starting from when the boy was 13, the district attorney said. She said she had “no doubt” about the credibility of the youths’ testimony, because it was corroborated by other evidence.

“This is the most terrible case that I have ever seen,” said Ms. Reynoso. “He was abusing kids who were living in extreme poverty, in exchange for pills for a boy’s illness. It’s very perverse.”

The Vatican sent someone to the Dominican Republic last October to look into the case, but they made no contact with the district attorney or anyone in her office, Ms. Reynoso said. She forwarded her report to the country’s attorney general, who forwarded it to the Vatican.

Ms. Reynoso said the case should have been prosecuted in the Dominican Republic. “These children who were abused, and their families, and the Dominican society, have a legitimate right to see Jozef Wesolowski judged by a jury — not as a diplomat, but for what he really is,” she said. “A child abuser.”

Mr. Brito, the attorney general, said he trusted that the Vatican would apply the “appropriate discipline.” He said he did not seek to have Mr. Wesolowski extradited because he has diplomatic immunity, and “the law would not allow it.”

According to experts in international law, the Vatican could have waived diplomatic immunity. In Santo Domingo, there have been small protests and petitions signed by more than a thousand people calling on the Vatican to extradite Mr. Wesolowski to the Dominican Republic. Advocates have accused the government of acquiescing to the church. “We think there has been a lot of impunity in this case, and no transparency,” said Sergia Galván, executive director of the Women and Health Collective, which represents abuse victims. “If he’s no longer a diplomat, if he was stripped of that title, he no longer has immunity.”

The case has reverberated in Poland, where prosecutors have sought to extradite Mr. Wesolowski, who holds both Vatican and Polish citizenship. Poland has indicted another Polish priest, the Rev. Wojciech Gil, who fled the Dominican Republic last year amid allegations that he abused altar boys in his rural parish. Prosecutors in the Dominican Republic say that Father Gil and Mr. Wesolowski spent time with young boys at the nuncio’s beach house.

There are indications from Rome that the pope himself is concerned about the Wesolowski case. A Dominican bishop, Fausto Ramón Mejía, said in an interview that when he was part of a delegation visiting the Vatican late last year, Pope Francis’ smile vanished on hearing what country he was from.

“He became very serious,” said Bishop Mejía. “He stopped and he said to me, very sincerely, ‘I feel as though my heart was crossed by a dagger from what took place in the Dominican Republic.’ ”

The case has shaken this stalwart Catholic nation, but the church has said little. In one group photograph released by the Dominican bishops, Mr. Wesolowski’s face appeared to have been removed from the picture.

“The people used to say, ‘I want my child to go to a Catholic church,’ ” said the Rev. Rogelio Cruz, a Catholic priest here. “Now they say, ‘No child of mine is ever going to a Catholic church.’

Friday, August 22, 2014

Top Vatican figure under fire for child abuse comments

Irish Independent
August 22,2 014

A top Vatican official has come under fire for drawing an analogy between the Catholic Church’s response to child abuse and a trucking company.

Cardinal Pell, Australia’s leading Catholic cleric and a former archbishop of both Melbourne and Sydney, said it would not be appropriate for legal culpability to be ‘foisted’ on church leaders, although he acknowledged the church had a moral obligation to victims of paedophile priests.

Speaking to a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Melbourne, Cardinal Pell cited the hypothetical example of a woman being molested by a truck driver.

"If the truck driver picks up some lady and then molests her, I don't think it's appropriate, because it is contrary to the policy, for the ownership, the leadership of that company to be held responsible," he said via video link from Rome.

"Similarly with the church and the head of any other organisation.

"If every precaution has been taken, no warning has been given, it is, I think, not appropriate for legal culpability to be foisted on the authority figure."

Cardinal Pell’s comments sparked outrage as support groups claimed his ‘outrageous’ comments showed a lack of compassion for victims of abuse.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Los Banos priest under investigation moved out of area

Rob Parsons
Modesto Bee
August 19, 2014

A Los Banos Catholic priest under investigation for possible sex crimes involving a teenager has been moved to an undisclosed location where there are no children present, a Catholic church official said Tuesday.

The Rev. Robert E. Gamel was placed on paid administrative leave early Friday, the morning after allegations surfaced involving a teenage church member, said Teresa Dominguez, chancellor for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno.

“There was no way we could’ve acted any sooner on the information,” Dominguez told the Merced Sun-Star in a telephone interview.

Gamel, 64, has not been arrested or formally accused of any wrongdoing by law enforcement, the Los Banos Police Department said Tuesday. “The detectives are still continuing their investigation,” Cmdr. Jason Hedden said, “and we’re still hoping for anyone from the public with information to come forward.”

The Rev. Joe Baca has been appointed interim administrator of the Los Banos parish for an indefinite period of time.

Gamel has been a priest at St. Joseph’s Church since 2009. He joined the priesthood in 1990. “Since then, he has always been a priest in good standing,” Dominguez said. This incident marks the first time the church has investigated Gamel for any alleged wrongdoing, Dominguez confirmed.

Efforts to reach Gamel for comment have been unsuccessful.

In a prepared statement, the diocese pledged to cooperate fully with police and said their own internal inquiry would come after law enforcement concludes its investigation. Church officials also were careful to note that all facts in the case have yet to come to light and urged people to avoid rushing to any judgments.

“An administrative leave does not carry with it any presumption of guilt. It is designed to protect the individual from further accusations pending the outcome of the investigation, to protect the public from the possibility of further wrongdoing, avoidance of scandal, and to ensure that the integrity of the investigation and the judicial processes, if applicable, are not compromised,” the diocese said in the statement.

A parent on Thursday evening contacted the diocese in Fresno and church officials met with the family in Los Banos that same night. After speaking with the teenager’s family and Gamel, church officials filed a police report and formally suspended Gamel the following morning, Dominguez said.

Los Banos police have not elaborated on many details of the investigation, but have said the accusations involve possible “Internet-related sex crimes.”

Police detectives on Friday served a search warrant at the St. Joseph’s rectory, seizing computer equipment and other potential evidence. The Sun-Star on Tuesday filed a formal request for copies of the search warrant and affidavit with the Merced Superior Court clerk’s office in Los Banos.

Dominguez said the church’s desire for transparency prompted them to release Gamel’s name in connection with the investigation, as well as concern for the reputations of other priests in Los Banos who have not been accused of any wrongdoing.

“We really want to defuse gossip as much as possible in this situation and only provide people with accurate information,” Dominguez said. “We want to make sure we are as transparent as possible for the good of the parish community and for the good of the whole community.”

Many Los Banos residents were reluctant to discuss the allegations against Gamel, who is more commonly known around town as “Father Bob.”

Patrons eating lunch Tuesday at Los Banos Drug on J and Sixth streets discussed the news, but declined to comment publicly. Gamel is a regular at the popular lunch spot in downtown Los Banos. One man, who described Gamel as a friend, said he hopes people will wait for all the facts to come out.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact Detective Eduardo Solis or Sgt. Ivan Mendez at (209) 827-7070, ext. 0.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Kansas City is still waiting for the bishop and Catholic diocese to do the right thing

editorial board
Kansas City Star
August 19, 2014

The only reassuring news to come out of an arbitrator’s recent finding against the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is that its Victim Advocacy Program, created in 2008 in response to the priest abuse scandal, is operating well.

But every other conclusion of the arbitrator — upheld last week by Jackson County Circuit Judge Bryan Round — brought shame to the diocese and provided more than enough reasons for Bishop Robert W. Finn, already convicted of a misdemeanor, to resign.

In ordering the diocese to pay $1.1 million for violating its agreement with sex abuse victims, arbitrator Hollis Hanover was blunt: “Where they (the victims) expected protection, they received desertion; where the assertion of authority on their behalf was required, they received betrayal.”

He also said he hopes “that I am dead wrong in my opinion that this Diocese as presently constituted will not mend its ways.”

Everyone hopes that. But there’s little reason for optimism.

In his ruling, Round rejected every argument made by the diocese to challenge Hanover’s award.

The agreement the diocese signed in 2008 grew out of a sexual abuse lawsuit filed against 12 current or former priests. The diocese settled that suit by paying $10 million and agreeing to various commitments. One of them required diocesan authorities to immediately report any further abuse or suspected abuse to law enforcement officials.

But the courts have ruled that didn’t happen in the case of Shawn Ratigan, at the time a priest in the diocese. Disturbing photos of young girls were found on his laptop computer, but Finn did not immediately notify authorities.

Instead, he put restrictions on Ratigan and reassigned him. Eventually Ratigan pleaded guilty to five child pornography charges and was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

In turn, a Jackson County judge in 2012 found Finn guilty of failing to report suspected child abuse to police or state child welfare authorities in a timely way.

Finn’s handling of this entire matter has been disgraceful and has outraged many faithful Catholics here and elsewhere.

As Round noted in his order last week, Hanover got it right in his award when he said the diocese “was and is constitutionally incapable of placing the preservation and protection of the clergy culture in a subordinate position to any other consideration, including the timely reporting to law enforcement of a priest involved in the use of diocesan children as pornography models.”

Beyond that, the behavior of diocesan leaders has cost millions of dollars generously given by members of local Catholic churches — money that surely could have been more worthily spent providing ministry to people in need.

This whole affair has been baffling. Why didn’t the church and its leaders do the right thing in the first place? When convicted of wrong doing, why didn’t Finn take the honorable route and resign? Why does the diocese continue to spend money seeking to justify its bad behavior?

In the end, the true victims and potential victims — the children — get lost in the legal maneuvering.

One of the church’s most important jobs is to protect children in its care. As the latest ruling confirms, the diocese has failed that moral obligation.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Pope lifts beatification ban on Salvadoran Oscar Romero

August 18, 2014

Pope Francis has lifted a ban on the beatification of murdered Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero.

For years, the Roman Catholic Church blocked the process because of concerns that he had Marxist ideas.

An outspoken critic of the military regime during El Salvador's bloody civil war, Archbishop Romero was shot dead while celebrating Mass in 1980.

Beatification, or declaring a person "blessed", is the necessary prelude to full sainthood.

The bishop was one of the main proponents of Liberation Theology - an interpretation of Christian faith through the perspective of the poor.

'Death squads'

On Monday, the Pope said he was hoping for a swift beatification process.

"For me Romero is a man of God," the pontiff told journalists on the plane bringing him back from a trip to South Korea.

"There are no doctrinal problems and it is very important that [the beatification] is done quickly."

ANALYSIS: John McManus, BBC News

It seems Francis hasn't finished wielding his new broom at the Vatican just yet, despite being Pope for more than a year now. After peering into the dark corners of the Vatican's banking system, and pushing an inclusive brand of Catholicism, he's now tackling what's been a painful episode for many Catholics.

Francis's decision to send the case of the Archbishop Romero to the Vatican's saint-making office flies in the face of what his two predecessors advocated. Indeed, Francis's own instincts early on in his Church career also tended to be suspicious of Romero's Liberation Theology, preferring clerics to steer away from political analysis and advocate salvation through prayer instead.

Yet many Catholics have been puzzled as to why a man killed for standing up for the Poor, has for so long been ignored by a Church which claims to speak for them. The Pope's comments don't mean he's changed his mind on Liberation Theology but may be an acknowledgment that, for many Catholics, Oscar Romero is already a saint - in practice, if not in name.

Archbishop Romero denounced the right-wing death squads that operated in the Central American nation at the time and the oppression against the poor, calling for an end to all political violence.

Left-wing rebels fought an insurgency against the US-backed right-wing government.

Some 75,000 people were killed in the civil war, which began in 1980 and ended in 1992 with a UN-brokered peace agreement.

Archbishop Romero was killed on 24 March 1980, aged 62, after ending his sermon in the capital, San Salvador.

No-one has ever been convicted in connection with his murder.

In 2010, then President Mauricio Funes - El Salvador's first left-wing leader since the end of the civil war - made an official apology.

"I am seeking pardon in the name of the state," Mr Funes said as he unveiled a mural honouring Oscar Romero at El Salvador's international airport.

The archbishop, he said, was a victim of right-wing death squads "who unfortunately acted with the protection, collaboration or participation of state agents".

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Johnson to LCWR: sisters ahead of hierarchy in living vatican II renewal

Dan Stockman
National Catholic Reporter
August 15, 2014

Nashville,Tenn - The Vatican and women religious are caught up in a tension with historical, sociological and ecclesiastical roots, but a solution could be found, Sr. Elizabeth Johnson said.

The Fordham University theologian praised the sisters for their commitment to "meaningful, honest dialogue" and urged them to stay the course.

Johnson was honored Friday with the Outstanding Leadership Award by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the largest group of women religious leaders in the nation, representing about 80 percent of the 51,600 sisters in the United States.

Both Johnson and LCWR have been criticized by the church, and Johnson told the nearly 800 sisters gathered here for LCWR’s annual assembly that the criticisms of her writing and of LCWR are intertwined.

Johnson is widely admired by LCWR members, and she urged them to hang on despite an ongoing investigation by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“I think both of us are caught in a situation not of our own making,” she said.

Johnson, a Sister of St. Joseph from Brentwood, N.Y., is considered one of the architects of feminist theology. She has published nine books and more than 100 essays in scholarly journals, book reviews, book chapters and articles; her work has been translated into 13 languages. She holds a doctorate in theology from The Catholic University of America and is a distinguished professor of theology at Fordham.

Johnson is a former president of both the Catholic Theological Society and the ecumenical American Theological Society, was a consultant to the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Committee on Women in Society and the Church. She was featured in a Library of Congress calendar called “Women Who Dare.”

She is also controversial. In April, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ordered that after this assembly, speakers at the group’s events must be approved by Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, who heads the congregation’s five-year reform agenda for LCWR. Müller cited LCWR’s selection of Johnson for the Outstanding Leadership Award as one reason for the mandate, noting that Johnson has been “criticized by the Bishops of the United States because of the gravity of the doctrinal errors in [her] writings.” Sartain attended each of the public events during the LCWR assembly except for Johnson’s presentation, as he was traveling Friday night.

LCWR communications director Immaculate Heart of Mary Sr. Annmarie Sanders said the assembly directed the board members to respond to the mandate but would not say what that response would be.

“They told the board to take the next steps,” Sanders said.

A statement on the action to be taken is expected sometime after the board finishes meeting Monday.

In 2011, the doctrinal committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said Johnson’s 2007 book, Quest for the Living God, is not in accordance with official Catholic teaching.

Johnson’s selection as a speaker, Müller said in April, “will be seen as a rather open provocation against the Holy See and the Doctrinal Assessment” and further alienates the LCWR from the bishops.

“It was clear from his statement that Cardinal Müller neither read the book or my response, but simply echoed the criticisms of the panel,” Johnson told LCWR members. “But the committee’s assessment of Quest is itself theologically flawed.”

Johnson reiterated her stance that the book does not say the things the panel claims it does and that she does not believe the things they say she wrote.

“It criticizes positions I take that are in accord with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and in several instances, it reports the opposite of what the book actually says in order to find fault,” she said. “In my judgment, and this is difficult to say, but I do believe such carelessness with the truth is unworthy of the teaching office of bishop.”

Johnson said the doctrinal congregation’s criticisms of LCWR are similar.

“The investigation’s statements express a vague, overall dissatisfaction and distrust on certain topics, and judgments are rendered in such a way that they cannot be addressed,” she said. “But your willingness to stay at the table and offer meaningful, honest dialogue is a powerful witness.”

Johnson said historically, there has always been tensions between religious communities and the hierarchy because one is based on a radical living of the Gospel and the other is based on administration, which requires order.

The issue is also sociological, she said.

“The church did not start out this way, but as an institution, it has evolved a patriarchal structure where authority is executed in a top-down fashion and obedience and loyalty to the system are the greatest of virtues,” Johnson said.

Finally, she said, the tensions are ecclesiastical because women religious have undergone the renewal called for by the Second Vatican Council and the hierarchy has not.

“Certainly, the LCWR and the sisters they lead are far from perfect, but they have got the smell of the sheep on them,” she said to heavy applause. “Post-Vatican II renewal has not taken place at the [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith].”

LCWR said Johnson was chosen for her distinguished academic achievements and scholarly contributions and for her consistent focus on those suffering and in need.

“Through her engagement of the most difficult questions of our day and her attention to violations of God’s beloved creation,” the LCWR statement regarding the award said, “she works tirelessly for change in our world that is in accord with Jesus’ vision of the reign of God.”

Franciscan Sr. Nancy Schreck, who delivered this year’s keynote address, said Johnson’s speech was “fabulous.”

“She names things so clearly, but at the same time, her commitment to the faith is unquestionable,” Schreck said.

Loretto Sr. Maureen Fiedler praised Johnson’s assessment of the situation.

“Her analysis of the difficulties between the hierarchy and where religious communities are was right on, and she did it on so many levels,” she said. “What do you do when you’ve gone ahead and implemented Vatican II and they haven’t?”

Following her speech, Johnson received a long standing ovation, and afterward, dozens of sisters waited in line to speak with her while dozens more waited outside the hall to order audio recordings of the speech.

Johnson closed her talk by sharing an Apartheid-era photo of a wall in South Africa where someone had written “Hang Mandela!” Someone else had come and penciled in “on” to make it “Hang on, Mandela!”, completely changing the meaning of what had been a statement against anti-Apartheid hero Nelson Mandela, who was still in prison at the time.

That creativity, she said, subverted a slur into an inspiration, a curse into a blessing, and that same creativity can be used to change the present situation.

And so, to LCWR members, she urged, “On!”

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Francis: those who take a vow of poverty but live luxurious lives hurt people's souls

Gianna Valente
Vatican Insider
August 16, 2014

The hypocrisy of those consecrated men and women who profess vows of poverty, yet live like the rich, wounds the souls of the faithful and harms the Church,” Francis said. Francis spoke frankly at today’s meeting with members of Korea’s religious communities on the third day of his visit to the “Land of the Morning Calm”. The Bishop of Rome also warned men and women religious against the temptation of “adopt[ing] a purely functional, worldly mentality which leads to placing our hope in human means alone and destroys the witness of poverty which our Lord Jesus Christ lived and taught us.” Sister Lee Kwang-ok jnb was also frank with the Pope, whom she greeted on behalf of Korea’s nuns. She talked about a Korean society that is “suffering in this era of globalization because of the domination of capitalism and political power and a Church that has been contaminated by secularism worsened by neoliberalism.”

Pope Francis is not one to mince his words. At the start of the meeting he informed participants at the meeting that he couldn’t stay for the recitation of the Vespers as scheduled because he was running behind schedule and had to return to Seoul by helicopter. As it was getting dark there was “a danger he and the crew might end up crashing into a mountain.” Francis may speak frankly but even today, the suggestions and points he made were not imbued with any stern and enraged and rigourism. In Francis’ opinion, religious only succumb to wealth and power because there is something lacking. This happens when consecrated men and women lose touch with God’s mercy, the only true source of their vocation: “Only if our witness is joyful will we attract men and women to Christ,” Francis told a gathering of religious brothers and sisters at the School of Love Training Centre in

The Pope reminded Korea’s religious communities that only by renewing their experience of God’s mercy can they persevere in each of the evangelical counsels – obedience, chastity, and poverty: “Your chastity, poverty and obedience will be a joyful witness to God’s love in the measure that you stand firmly on the rock of his mercy.” The desire to achieve perfect charity, which is an ideal of religious life does not mean an obsession with perfectionism. Recognizing one’s own weaknesses and fragilities can become the first step to realizing our need for Christ’s grace and resist the temptation of seeing ourselves as self-sufficient: “Even when we are weary, we can offer him our hearts burdened by sin and weakness; at those times when we feel most helpless, we can reach out to Christ, “who made himself poor in order that we might become rich” (cf. 2 Cor 8:9). This fundamental need of ours to be forgiven and healed is itself a form of poverty which we must never lose sight of, no matter how many advances we make in virtue.”

Francis took the meeting with Korea’s religious communities as an opportunity to emphasize in simple terms what it is that gives birth to and fuels a Christian vocation. Not just religious vocations. And not just in Korea but throughout the world.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Judge confirms that Kansas City diocese must pay $1.1 million in breach of contract case

Judy L. Thomas
Kansas City Star
August 15, 2014

The Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese must pay the $1.1 million ordered by an arbitrator last spring for violating the terms of a 2008 settlement with priest sexual abuse victims, a judge has ruled.

Calling the award a “scathing indictment of the defendant,” Jackson County Circuit Judge Bryan Round said in his ruling that “there can be no doubt that the diocese, through its leadership and higher-level personnel, failed in numerous respects to abide by the terms” of the 2008 agreement. Those terms included immediately reporting any abuse or suspicion of abuse to law enforcement authorities — something the diocese failed to do in the child pornography case of the Rev. Shawn Ratigan in 2010.

Round issued the ruling late Wednesday, three weeks after hearing arguments in the case. The plaintiffs had asked him to confirm the arbitrator’s order, while the diocese had argued that it be vacated.

“The order is, once again, an indictment of the way the diocese has handled issues of childhood sexual abuse,” said Rebecca Randles, an attorney for the plaintiffs. She praised the plaintiffs for having “done so much to try to protect children from the kind of abuse they experienced.”

The plaintiffs pointed to the diocese’s failure to immediately report the Rev. Shawn Ratigan after finding hundreds of disturbing images of young girls on the priest’s laptop computer in late 2010.

The diocese issued a statement Thursday saying that as part of the 2008 settlement, it had agreed to implement or continue policies and procedures designed to protect children.

The statement said that “while the diocese disputes many of the arbitrator’s findings and opinions, it will continue to honor its pledge to provide a safe and protective environment to children and other vulnerable persons.”

Anyone suspecting abuse should report it to the Missouri Child Abuse Hotline at 800-392-3738 and to local police, the diocese said. If the suspected abuser works or volunteers for the church, reporters should contact diocesan ombudsman Jenifer Valenti at 816-812-2500, the statement said.

The $1.1 million award, ordered March 23 by arbitrator Hollis Hanover, stems from a breach of contract lawsuit filed three years ago alleging that the diocese and Bishop Robert Finn violated parts of the 2008 settlement, putting children in danger.

The lawsuit was filed in Jackson County Circuit Court by most of the plaintiffs from the 2008 case.

The plaintiffs pointed to the diocese’s failure to immediately report Ratigan after finding hundreds of disturbing images of young girls on the priest’s laptop computer in late 2010. They contended that the diocese broke the 2008 agreement by failing for almost a year to report allegations and concerns about Ratigan‘s behavior to police, withholding evidence of possible child pornography from law enforcement for months and leaving another credibly accused priest in a parish for nearly two years.

A Jackson County judge in 2012 found Finn guilty of failing to report suspicions of child abuse to police or state child welfare authorities in the Ratigan case. Finn was sentenced to two years of probation for the misdemeanor. Ratigan pleaded guilty to state and federal child pornography charges and is serving 50 years in prison.

In issuing the award, Hanover found that the diocese had breached five of 19 non-monetary terms of the 2008 agreement. He said he hoped “that I am dead wrong in my opinion that this diocese as presently constituted will not mend its ways.”

The diocese argued at a July 23 hearing that Hanover had exceeded his authority. There were no provisions in the 2008 settlement that allowed Hanover to award monetary damages beyond the $10 million that was agreed upon by the parties, diocesan attorneys said. They also said that awarding additional monetary damages nullified the non-economic commitments the diocese had agreed to in the settlement. The diocese also argued that Hanover’s award contained factual errors and unsupported inferences.

In his ruling, Round rejected all of the diocese’s arguments and said the arbitrator’s findings could be best summarized by a passage from the award.

The diocese, the award said, “was and is constitutionally incapable of placing the preservation and protection of the clergy culture in a subordinate position to any other consideration, including the timely reporting to law enforcement of a priest involved in the use of diocesan children as pornography models.”

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Appeal to save the Nineveh plain from the ISIS Jihadists

Louis Raphael Sako, Patriarch of Babylon and the president of the Catholic bishops of Iraq, issued the following appeal for help.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Twin cities priest accused of sex abuse on job until months ago

Emily Gurnon
Pioneer Press
August 11, 2014

The Rev. Kenneth LaVan began sexually abusing girls with his first parish assignment in the 1960s, and later threatened to burn down a woman's house and have her husband killed -- yet he was not removed from active ministry in the Twin Cities until last year, according to court and internal church records.

The Rev. Kevin McDonough told then-Archbishop Harry Flynn in 2005 that, while he knew of LaVan's "boundary violations with adult females, I had forgotten that there were two allegations in the late 1980s concerning sexual involvement with teenaged girls."

There were "significant doubts" about the girls' stories, however, McDonough told Flynn. Nevertheless, he raised the possibility of "reopening an investigation into these old matters.

" Flynn said that wasn't necessary.

The details about LaVan's record at parishes in West St. Paul, Crystal, Lake St. Croix Beach and Lino Lakes, among other locations, were revealed through a court-ordered release of his internal church file. Attorney Jeffrey Anderson, who sued the archdiocese on behalf of a man alleging sexual abuse by a different priest, released the contents of the file Monday to reporters.

"The secret personnel file of Kenneth LaVan shows a pernicious 'blind spot' among Catholic officials at the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis: the stunning and heartless minimization of the sexual abuse of girls and women," Anderson said in a written statement.

LaVan, 81, now lives in Oakdale. He did not return calls placed to a number listed for him Wednesday and Thursday.


Bishop Andrew Cozzens, with the St. Paul archdiocese, said in a statement Thursday that under present standards and protocols, "if we receive similar allegations regarding a priest, we would immediately call the police."

The approach to psychological treatment for priests is different, too, Cozzens said. "We consider it a way to get an understanding of their mental health. A priest who has sexually abused a child may indeed receive treatment, but would not be considered again for ministry, no matter what progress he might make in treatment."

One of the early allegations against LaVan was by a girl who said the priest forcibly raped her at the Church of St. Raphael in Crystal when she was 14 or 15. LaVan served there from 1965 to 1970.

Psychologist Gary Schoener was hired by the archdiocese to examine LaVan. He also evaluated the girl's account and that of another teen, who said LaVan kissed her "passionately," backed her up against a wall, fondled her breasts and grabbed her crotch. The contact began when she was between the sixth and seventh grade, she said.

The first girl said the rape occurred when she was in a room at the church with LaVan, sitting on the floor as he sat on a couch. "Her next memory is of Father LaVan on the floor, holding on to her, trying to kiss her," Schoener wrote in a December 1988 report to Vicar General Michael J. O'Connell. "She remembers pushing him away, and then remembers him on top of her." He put his hand over her mouth and penetrated her, Schoener wrote.

LaVan denied "anything close to" a rape, though Schoener said he believed LaVan was minimizing events with both girls.

"The alternative -- that these stories are fabrications -- seems extraordinarily unlikely," Schoener wrote. Putting him back in a pastoral or counseling role, he said, would be "very risky."

And yet that is what the archdiocese did, after sending LaVan to a seven-month inpatient treatment program at the St. Luke Institute in Maryland.


Schoener's examination of LaVan came after reports of his involvement with several women. An adult parishioner at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Lake St. Croix Beach, where LaVan was assigned from 1983 to 1985, told Bishop Robert Carlson that LaVan "became very upset" when she ended a sexual relationship between them.

LaVan harassed the family, "frequently went up and down in front of their house and surprised (her) on the beach," according to a 1985 memo from Carlson to then-Archbishop John Roach. The woman's husband confronted him and told him to leave them alone.

"The next Sunday Father LaVan preached a sermon on those who would not forgive," and asked a fellow priest to invite the woman to the rectory, Carlson wrote.

When she continued to rebuff him, LaVan "mentioned a threat about possibly burning down the house ... 'or have your husband murdered, but I am not that kind of person,' " Carlson quoted LaVan as saying.

Carlson urged Roach: "If we don't want this to build into a real problem it is my recommendation that we accept Father LaVan's resignation from the parish, find a suitable cover story and get him into an in-patient treatment program ... so that this thing does not blow up."

Carlson is now archbishop in the Diocese of St. Louis, Mo.


The archdiocese sent LaVan in 1986 to a treatment program at the Servants of the Paracletes in Jemez Springs, N.M. Later that same year, the archdiocese made him pastor at St. Richard's Catholic Church in Richfield. The following year, he was moved to St. Joseph of the Lakes in Lino Lakes. It wasn't long before he was sent to treatment again, this time for the seven months at the St. Luke Institute. Four days after his 1989 release, LaVan returned to St. Joseph of the Lakes. He was to be monitored; his assigned supervisors were the Rev. Joseph Wajda and the Rev. Richard Skluzacek -- who had themselves been accused of molesting children.

In 1992, another victim came forward and met with McDonough. He also heard that LaVan was violating boundaries with parish staff and that there was an "aggressiveness" in his behavior toward victims.

LaVan remained at St. Joseph's until his retirement in 1998, according to church records. In retirement, LaVan continued to perform priestly functions such as funerals, and he celebrated Mass at various parishes for vacationing clergy. Among those was St. Olaf in Minneapolis.

The 2002 national Catholic bishops conference in Dallas spawned the creation of what is now known as the "Dallas Charter," or the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Among other things, it called for a priest to be removed from ministry after "even a single act of sexual abuse of a minor."

In 2005, then-Vicar General McDonough wrote to Flynn and others that, as part of a review of clergy files in light of the new rules, it became apparent that LaVan was not considered to have abused children -- despite the allegations from the girls.

Specifically, according to a 1989 lawsuit, a woman who attended St. Michael Catholic Church in West St. Paul with her family when she was a child said LaVan sexually abused her beginning in approximately 1960, when she was 12. The abuse continued for five years, she said.

It took place at the parish rectory, the girl's family cabin and at a convent, when she was studying to become a nun. She later settled the case out of court.


McDonough told Flynn in the 2005 memo that officials "did not ever reach our own complete determination about the veracity of the two complaints against him." He suggested that, if LaVan was willing to live by the restrictions of the Charter, "he could do so even without acknowledging guilt ... and we probably would have discharged all of our obligations in his regard."

If he refused, the archdiocese could reopen an investigation, McDonough wrote.

Flynn wrote back in January 2006, saying, "I do not think we should reopen this case again since it seems to have been closed to the satisfaction of everyone involved."

In all, LaVan was accused of sexually abusing at least three girls and several women, including one who suffered from a brain injury and was under psychiatric care at the time of the abuse. Nevertheless, he was not included among the priests "credibly accused" of abusing children as of 2002.

He was removed from ministry in December 2013 only after media scrutiny on the mishandling of sexual abuse by priests in the archdiocese. The archdiocese disclosed his name as an abuser in February 2014.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Ukraine's Catholic leaders back military campaign to 'protect our homeland against Russia'

Jonathan Luxmoore
The Tablet
August 8, 2014

The head of Ukraine’s Greek Catholic Church has urged his countrymen “not to be afraid to defend their homeland” as official military chaplains began work for the first time in the country since Communist rule and Russian forces announced a major border exercise.

“For the first time in the post-[Second World] war years, people need to give their lives and shed blood for their country’s independence,” said Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych. “But God’s power is able to extinguish any conflict and confrontation – and people who hope in God remain undefeated and can defend their country and state.”

The archbishop, whose church combines the Eastern Rite with loyalty to Rome, was speaking as Ukrainian army units were reported to be gaining ground against pro-Russia separatists around the eastern cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Russia’s Defence Ministry announced exercises this week on the Ukrainian border, involving over 100 bombers and fighter jets, as military chaplains began work in Ukraine’s armed forces in 1 August, nine decades after chaplaincies were abolished under Soviet rule. The secretary general of the Greek Catholic Synod of Bishops, Bishop Bogdan Dziurach, told The Tablet that his church had designated around 70 priests for military work, of whom a dozen were currently serving in the eastern conflict zone.

In a separate interview, Bishop Dziurach welcomed new US and European Union sanctions as a “necessary step to stop the Kremlin and end the carnage”. He added that Western governments now “saw more clearly” that Russian actions threatened “the entire world”.

Pro-Russia forces released a Catholic priest, Fr Viktor Vonsevich, last week after abducting him in mid-July, but were reported to have killed five Pentecostal pastors and youths after accusing them of helping the Ukrainian army. The Interfax news agency reported on Monday that an Orthodox priest, Vladimir Kreslansky, had been killed by Ukrainian army shelling at Luhansk.

US bishops call day of prayer for Christians in Iraq

US Conference of Catholic Bishops
August 7, 2014

WASHINGTON—The chairman of the Committee of International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) asked the U.S. bishops to invite the people of their dioceses to pray for peace in Iraq on Sunday, August 17. Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, made the request, August 6, sending the bishops the text of a prayer written by the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Iraq, His Beatitude Louis Rafael Sako.

Bishop Pates recounted the struggles of Christians and others in Iraq who have faced the destruction, burning and looting of churches, homes and businesses and, under threat of the Islamic State (ISIS) to join their extremist brand of Islam, have fled for their lives. Accordingly, he urged Catholics to let their elected representatives know of their concern that humanitarian assistance reach Christian and other religious minorities who are suffering in Iraq, Syria and other countries.

Bishop Pates also noted Pope Francis’ calls for peace in Iraq and his observation that “violence generates more violence; dialogue is the only path to peace.”

The full text of Patriarch Sako’s prayer for peace follows:

The plight of our country
is deep and the suffering of Christians
is severe and frightening.
Therefore, we ask you Lord
to spare our lives, and to grant us patience,
and courage to continue our witness of Christian values
with trust and hope.
Lord, peace is the foundation of life;
Grant us the peace and stability that will enable us
to live with each other without fear and anxiety,
and with dignity and joy.

Glory be to you forever.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Iraq Christians flee as Islamic State takes Qaraqosh

August 7, 2014

Up to a quarter of Iraq's Christians are reported to be fleeing after Islamic militants seized the minority's biggest town in the country.

The Islamic State (IS) group captured Qaraqosh in Nineveh province overnight after the withdrawal of Kurdish forces. Meanwhile, the UN says some of the 50,000 members of the Yazidi religious minority trapped by IS on Mount Sinjar have been rescued.

IS controls parts of Iraq and Syria and says it has created an Islamic state.

Nineveh, located 400km (250 miles) north-west of Baghdad, is home to a large number of religious minorities. Tens of thousands have been forced to flee since IS, a Sunni Muslim group formerly known as Isis, launched their onslaught in the north in June.

In other developments:

A suicide bombing in a Shia Muslim area of Baghdad killed at least 12 people
IS said it had captured the strategic Mosul dam on the Tigris river - a claim denied by Kurdish forces who insist they are still in control
At least six people died when a car bomb exploded near a Shia mosque in the northern city of Kirkurk
A majority of Nineveh inhabitants left their homes overnight, according to Fraternite en Irak, an international Christian organisation based in Paris.

As many as 100,000 people are believed to be fleeing toward the autonomous Kurdistan Region.

Pope Francis has made an impassioned appeal to the international community to do much more to address the crisis. A Vatican statement said the Pope appealed for "all necessary help" to be given to those forced to flee their homes, "whose fate depends entirely on the solidarity of others".

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has called for the UN Security Council to hold an emergency meeting over the situation.

Christian 'catastrophe'

Kurdish forces, known as the Peshmerga, have been fighting the IS militants' advance for weeks. The Peshmerga's commander in Qaraqosh reportedly told the town's archbishop late on Wednesday that the forces were abandoning their posts.

Several senior clergymen in Nineveh confirmed the town had fallen.

"It's a catastrophe, a tragic situation: tens of thousands of terrified people are being displaced as we speak," said Joseph Thomas, the Chaldean archbishop of the northern city of Kirkuk.

Eyewitnesses in Qaraqosh said IS militants were taking down crosses in churches and burning religious manuscripts. The town - referred to as Iraq's Christian capital - is located 30km south-east of the city of Mosul, which was captured by IS in June.

Iraq's minorities


The majority are Chaldeans, part of the Catholic Church
Numbers have fallen from around 1.5 million since the US-led invasion in 2003 to 350,000-450,000
In Nineveh, they live mainly in towns such as Qaraqosh (also known as Baghdida), Bartella, Al-Hamdaniya and Tel Kef


Secretive group whose origins and ethnicity are subject to continuing debate
Religion incorporates elements of many faiths, including Zoroastrianism
Many Muslims and other groups view Yazidis as devil worshippers
There are estimated to be around 500,000 Yazidis worldwide, most living in Iraq's Nineveh plains

Last month, hundreds of Christian families fled Mosul after the Islamist rebels gave them an ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a special tax or be executed.

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

Meanwhile, the UN said it was mobilising resources to assist Yazidis rescued from Mount Sinjar over the past 24 hours. Members of the religious group sought refuge there after IS overran the nearby town of Sinjar at the weekend.

Almost 200,000 civilians have been displaced from the town, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has warned.

Those trapped on the mountain are facing dehydration, and 40 children are reported to have died already.

"This is a tragedy of immense proportions, impacting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people," UN spokesman David Swanson said. "Many of the displaced are in immediate need of essential life-saving humanitarian items, including water, food, shelter and medicine."

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Islamic extremists impose reign of terror on Iraq

Anmar Al Shamary and Gilgamesh Nabeel
USA Today and Religion News Service
August 5, 2014

BAGHDAD Police cars have been repainted to say "Islamic police." Women are forbidden from wearing bright colors and prints. The homes of Shiites and others have signs stating they are property of the Islamic State. And everyone walks in fear amid a new reign of terror. That's what life is like in Mosul, Tikrit and other cities in northern and western Iraq under the control of Islamic extremists after their lightning-fast military campaign that overwhelmed the Iraqi army in June.

The new normal for these residents means daily decrees about attire and raids to root out religious minorities in a campaign to impose strict Islamic rule in cities that tolerated multiple religions for centuries.

Residents chafe at the radical changes, and some are starting to rebel against the militants as they try to "cleanse" the region of anything -- and anyone -- deemed non-Islamic. As many Christians in Mosul have discovered, their only choice is fleeing.

"I was shocked when I heard the new decision forcing me to wear a veil and totally cover my face," said Mais Mohamad, 25, a pharmacist in Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq. "I can't do that -- I was always free to wear what I like. I can't live the rest of my life with my face covered."

The militants, an al-Qaida splinter group so radical that it was rejected even by al-Qaida, initially concentrated on providing services such as sanitation and restoring order. The group, which insists on being called the Islamic State, issued religious decrees soon after taking over the city but didn't enforce them, residents said.

Over the past few weeks, the group has begun to crack down in an effort to fulfill its ambition to create an Islamic territory spanning Iraq and neighboring Syria.

"The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [the group's original name] decided that anybody who utters their [old] name will get 70 lashes," said Ghaida'a Al-Rasool, a doctor in Mosul. "Their new name is simply the Islamic State."

The group has established Islamic courts controlled by muftis, or Muslim religious leaders. Fighters regularly drive through the streets in trucks using loudspeakers to inform residents about changes.

"They have told clothing merchants to sell what they have within 20 days and then only jubbas are allowed," said Saad Al-Hayali, an engineer in Mosul, referring to flowing, one-piece robes worn by Muslims throughout the Middle East. "They have forbidden dressing rooms inside stores, too."

More worrisome for residents is the Islamic State's move to cleanse its strongholds. Christians and other minorities were given an ultimatum: Convert to Islam or face execution.

"I left from my home when we received the threat," said Abir Gerges, 45, a Christian schoolteacher who fled to Irbil, a city in Kurdistan, a semiautonomous region of Iraq protected by its own military force.

"I told my husband, 'We have to leave,' " said Gerges, a mother of three boys. "He hesitated, saying, 'How can I leave the house I inherited from my parents?' But I told him they might kill us and kill our sons in front of us. What are we going to do with a house if that happens? So he decided to listen to me, and we took our money and my jewelry and a bag of clothes and left."

Gerges and her family quickly saw the scope of the militants' rule when they came upon a checkpoint far outside Mosul.

"I put on a veil, trying to hide, but they asked if we were Christian," she said. "We were afraid to lie to them, so we said yes. One of them -- he was masked -- advanced toward me and said, 'You must remove all the jewelry you are wearing. Now it's Islamic State property.' Also they confiscated all my husband's money. Afterward, they said, 'Now you can go. That's punishment for your refusal to be Muslim.' "

The new rulers are wiping out traces of churches and ancient shrines.

"The churches are closed," said Al-Rasool, the Mosul doctor. "Yesterday, I saw an old church in the streets of the Ras al-Kur historic district. The doors of the church were walled off with cement and blocks."

City Hall employees are expected to continue coming to work, but tolerance for non-Sunni Muslims is slight.

"They have reduced municipal employees' salaries by half of their former amount, and they've told the Christians, Shiites and Shabak [minorities], 'You are fired,' " Al-Rasool said.

The few Christians and Muslim minorities who remain live secretly, in fear of being discovered.

"I am still in Mosul, and I know for sure I will be dead if they know I am here," said Hassan Ali, 55, a Turkmen Shiite and father of three daughters. "But what can I do? I can't afford to move somewhere else. I prefer to die here rather than dying in refugee camps with no services and no food."

It is left to underpaid Sunni workers to restore city services and repair electrical lines and water treatment facilities that were heavily bombarded by retreating government forces. Under the Islamic State, electricity is rationed, water pumps run dry, gas prices are spiking and shortages of daily necessities are common.

The new hardships of daily living are particularly difficult for women and children. Though women are not barred from walking alone outside, the atmosphere has prompted many to remain indoors, keeping their children close at hand because schools have shut down.

"They want all women to be veiled and not to go outside without a man," said Omer Othman, 37, a shopkeeper. "This is a disaster for women. They used to perform half of the family's daily tasks."

The Islamic State on Sunday seized two more small towns in northern Iraq, Zumar and Sinjar, both religiously mixed, forcing thousands of residents to flee, the United Nations said.

But the extremists may have gone too far when they started blowing up revered tombs and mosques that did not conform to their religious views, such as the burial site of biblical prophet Jonah.

"It brought out the conscience of Mosul residents," said Al-Rasool, the doctor, referring to Jonah's tomb. "All people from all religions and ethnic groups revere this site -- it is the guardian and heart of the city."

Atheel Al-Nujaifi, the governor of Mosul, announced last week that a popular rebellion against the militants will start soon.

The Islamic State "behaved very nice at the beginning of the takeover of Mosul, but they start to uncover their ugly faces. They blew up three prophets' graves, which opened my eyes," said Othman, the shopkeeper. "I think people won't be standing for these injustices, and they might rise up against them very soon."

Pope Benedict XVI OK'd abusive priest in Paraguay local bishop says

David Gibson
Religion News Service
August 5, 2014

A showdown between Pope Francis and a conservative bishop in Paraguay is heating up as the bishop rejected charges that he sheltered a priest accused of sexual misconduct and claimed that Pope Benedict XVI himself vouched for the suspect cleric just days before his election as pope in 2005.

The conflict between the Vatican and Bishop Rogelio Livieres Plano of the diocese of Ciudad del Este was sparked by revelations in March that the bishop had promoted a Catholic priest who had been barred from ministry in Pennsylvania after church officials there said he molested several boys.

Last month, Rome dispatched a cardinal and an archbishop to Paraguay to investigate, and on July 30, the Vatican said it was removing the priest, Fr. Carlos Urrutigoity, from his job as the diocese's No. 2 official. It also took the unusual step of barring Livieres from ordaining any men to the priesthood.

In a detailed and sharply worded 12-point rebuttal to Rome, the Paraguayan diocese said Urrutigoity has been the subject of "a long and harsh defamation campaign in the U.S." and said he came "recommended by some cardinals with roles in the Vatican."

One of those cardinals, it said, was Joseph Ratzinger, who "was elected pope Benedict XVI a few days later," in April 2005.

Benedict, who resigned in February 2013, has been praised for toughening church policies against abusive priests. Before his election as pope, he ran the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which has jurisdiction over all abuse cases.

Urrutigoity was accused of abuse in a highly publicized lawsuit in Scranton, Pa., in 2002. At the time, he and another priest, Eric Ensey, were suspended by then-Bishop James Timlin amid allegations they had sexually molested students at St. Gregory's Academy in Elmhurst, now closed. The diocese reportedly reached a $450,000 settlement in the case in 2006.

Timlin's successor, Bishop Joseph Martino, who is also retired, in 2005 shut down the Society of St. John, a conservative group that Urrutigoity had founded; the group was known for promoting the old Latin Mass and for lavish spending.

By then, Urrutigoity had moved to Paraguay, along with a number of priests and laypeople from Scranton, to reconstitute the society under the auspices of Livieres, a member of the Opus Dei order who had developed a reputation as an outspoken conservative, even in the Paraguayan hierarchy.

At the time, Martino alerted Livieres and the Vatican ambassadors to the U.S. and Paraguay about the accusations against Urrutigoity, which a church review board had found credible.

But Livieres accepted the Argentine-born Urrutigoity, eventually named him a monsignor and then appointed him vicar general, which is the second-most powerful position in a diocese.

Media reports in March about Urrutigoity's promotion prompted the current Scranton bishop to reiterate the objections to the priest serving in ministry anywhere, and a lengthy story in the Global Post about Urrutigoity's checkered career also helped set in motion the chain of events leading to the confrontation between Livieres and the Vatican.

The online rebuttal by the Paraguayan diocese focuses on the Urrutigoity case but also serves as a chance for the bishop to defend himself against a range of long-standing criticisms -- many from his fellow bishops -- of his conservative policies and positions on church issues and Paraguayan politics.

The rejoinder concludes on an especially dramatic note, invoking the events portrayed in the award-winning film "The Mission," about Rome's suppression of Jesuit evangelization efforts in Paraguay in the 18th century.

"The growth and strength of the People of God in Paraguay was cruelly maimed" as a result of those events, says the statement, which is set to the famous soundtrack of the 1986 film.

"They were also accused by questionable ecclesiastics in alliance with powerful lobbies and politicians," it adds, noting the irony that Francis is himself a Jesuit from South America who is set to "write the story" of that previous suppression "in a new way."

Scandals causing more Germans to leave Catholic church, cardinal says

Catholic News Service
August 4, 2015

A German cardinal warned that the number of Catholics leaving his country's church is "alarmingly high" and urged an end to "scandals and vexations" involving clergy.

"There's no doubt these figures must make us think. We've obviously suffered a loss of trust and credibility which has rarely happened so violently," Cardinal Karl Lehmann of Mainz wrote in a column published in the Aug. 3 issue of Faith and Life, the diocese's weekly newspaper.

Cardinal Karl Lehmann arrives with an aide to one of last year's pre-conclave sessions at the Vatican to discuss the qualities needed for a new pope. (CNS/Paul Haring)

"The church isn't just another club, and all efforts must now be made to prevent more scandals through repentance and renewal," wrote Cardinal Lehmann, a former president of the German bishops' conference.

The column followed the release of new church data that showed a sharp increase in Catholics removing their names from parish and diocesan membership rolls.

Catholics made up 29.9 percent of Germany's population of 82 million in 2013, according to church figures published July 18. In comparison, 29 percent of Germans claimed membership in the Protestant Evangelical Church of Germany.

Registered departures slowed during the 2005-2013 pontificate of German Pope Benedict XVI, but jumped again to nearly 179,000 last year, from more than 118,000 in 2012. More than 10,000 Catholics joined or rejoined the church during the year, according to church data.

Departures doubled to nearly 8,000 in the troubled Limburg Diocese, where Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst resigned in March after controversy emerged over expenditures for his residence and a diocesan center.

The church reported that Sunday Mass attendance dropped from 11.7 percent to 10.8 percent of Catholics during the year, compared to 22 percent in 1989. Church baptisms and marriages also fell.

In addition, the number of Catholic parishes dropped during 2013 by 137 to just over 11,000 after several of the country's 27 dioceses launched reorganizations to cope with declining membership.

Presenting the report, Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, president of the German bishops' conference, said the statistics should be a wake-up call to the German church about the need for "good and convincing work to rebuild confidence at all levels."

A German sociologist, Michael Ebertz, told the Catholic news agency KNA he also believed the abuse and Limburg scandals had caused the rise in departures, despite much-publicized countermeasures subsequently taken by the German bishops.

The "positive example" set by Pope Francis appeared unable to prevent "a high potential for disappointment among Catholics," he said. Formal resignations from church membership were often "the final stage of a long process of distancing from it," he said.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Bishop: 'no purpose' in releasing names of abusive priests

Claire Taylor
The Daily Advertiser (Lafayette, LA)
August 1, 2014

Ten years after admitting the Diocese of Lafayette and its insurers paid more than $26 million to the families of children molested by priests, Bishop Michael Jarrell this week refused to release the names of those priests.

"Bishop Jarrell sees no purpose in such action," Monsignor Richard Greene, media liaison, wrote in response to The Daily Advertiser's request for the priests' names.

The Advertiser made the request after sworn statements from the 1990s came to light recently, including allegations by a young man that a priest still ministering in Lafayette sexually abused him. The priest and Diocese denied the allegations.

"The obvious purpose is that failing to reveal these names may pose a serious threat or danger to even more innocent children in this diocese than these men have already injured," Ray Mouton wrote in an email to The Advertiser.

Mouton is the attorney who represented Gilbert Gauthe in the first widely known case of pedophilia by a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Lafayette. Now living in France, Mouton campaigns for the rights of survivors of abuse, co-authored a 1985 report hailed by the media as the most significant document issued in the priest sex abuse scandal, and wrote "In God's House," a novel drawn from his extensive experience dealing with this issue.

In 2004, Jarrell said the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette and its insurers paid about $26 million to 123 victims of priests who served in the diocese between 1950 and 2002.

The names of those priests were never made public despite policies by the Catholic Church to be transparent about child sexual abuse issues.

"It is unconscionable, not to mention unchristian, for a Catholic bishop to shield and protect the identity of men whom he has stated have had credible complaints of sex abuse made against them for which his diocese paid financial settlements for victims, for these men are criminals who have committed heinous sex crimes against children," Mouton wrote.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2005 adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People that outlines policies and actions church leaders are to follow in responding to allegations of sexual abuse of minors.

Jarrell said he may ask the Diocese Review Board, required by the Charter, to advise him on the handling of the priest still serving in Lafayette who was accused of misconduct in the 1990s.

Of three accused priests, one commits suicide, one admits rape

The Charter also states that dioceses are "to be open and transparent in communicating with the public about sexual abuse of minors by clergy," report allegations of abuse to "public authorities" and cooperate with their investigation, and if the allegation is deemed not substantiated, take every step possible to restore the priest's good name.

Jarrell told The Advertiser on Wednesday the allegations against the priest still serving were investigated and found to be unsubstantiated.

The Advertiser asked Jarrell to release the Diocese's investigation file or report on the priest still serving in order to clear his name and show the public the allegations were investigated properly.

Jarrell responded through Greene that retired Bishop Harry Flynn conducted the investigation in 1992 and the police were not involved.

There's no record that Flynn or any other investigators met with the alleged victim, Greene wrote. There's very little in the file and no report, he said.

Abbeville attorney Anthony Fontana Jr., who represented some priest abuse victims, told The Advertiser this week that Flynn told him the priest had gone away for treatment and been "cured." The priest had been accused of sexually abusing a boy and making advances toward adult males.

Greene said in response to our questions that medical information about personnel is confidential, but that the priest "has never been sent by the Diocese for treatment for pedophilia."

In a 1995 deposition cited in a federal lawsuit by the Diocese against its insurers, Frey admitted that when priests temporarily left the Diocese "due to allegations of sexual misconduct, the most that their personnel files would reflect would be that they left 'for reasons of health.'"

Friday, August 1, 2014

Paraguay: diocese defends bishop, says Cardinal Ratzinger recommended accused priest

[The Diocese of Ciudad del Este in Paraguay is strongly defending it's Bishop Livieres and his defense of Fr. Carlos Urrutigoity. The situation looks quite different out side this diocese as reported in a recent Global Post story.
An excerpt : This is a man who’s been described by bishops from Switzerland to Pennsylvania as “dangerous,” “abnormal” and “a serious threat to young people.”

He has spent two decades flitting from diocese to diocese, always one step ahead of church and legal authorities, before landing in this lawless, remote corner of South America. Here, in the pirate-laden jungle near the Iguacu falls, he has risen to a position of power.

Today, despite warnings from the bishop of Scranton, Pennsylvania, where in 2002 Urrutigoity was accused of molesting a teenage boy and sleeping with and touching other young men, this priest leads a starry-eyed cadre of young male seminarians. Despite once being accused of running what a fellow priest called a “homosexual cult” in the hills of Pennsylvania, Urrutigoity now graces the diocese website here, advertising seminars for budding young Catholics.

Urrutigoity’s voyage from his native Argentina to Pennsylvania and back to South America represents a new chapter in the shocking story of abuse in the Catholic Church.

read the entire Global Post article at the above link.]

Catholic World News
August 1, 2014

The Diocese of Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, has published an aggressive defense of the leadership of Bishop Rogelio Livieres Plano, claiming that a priest who had been accused of abuse in the US was placed in ministry on the recommendation of then-Cardinal Ratzinger.

Bishop Livieres incardinated Father Carlos Urrutigoity, who had been accused of sexual abuse in Pennsylvania, into his diocese in 2005. The diocese stated that the priest “came recommended by some cardinals with functions in the Holy See (one of them, elected a few days later Successor of Peter).” In 2005, Bishop Joseph Martino of Scranton suppressed the Society of St. John-- which had been known for its promotion of the extraordinary form of the Mass, but also criticized for reports of lavish spending-- following accusations of sexual abuse against its founder, Father Urrutigoity. Bishop Martino’s predecessor, Bishop James Timlin, had suspended Father Urrutigoity’s faculties after a diocesan review board found an abuse allegation credible. In defending Bishop Livieres, the Paraguayan diocesan website stated:

In 2004, Paraguay’s bishops wrote to Pope St. John Paul II to protest his appointment of Father Livieres, a priest of Opus Dei, to the diocese, but the Holy See held firm.

Bishop Livieres was the only bishop who publicly opposed the presidential candidacy of former bishop Fernando Lugo, who governed the nation from 2008 to 2012.

Opposition to Bishop Livieres among religious orders intensified when he forbade the “political or ideological instrumentalization” of their work and when he called for the proclamation of the Gospel to indigenous peoples. Ten priests from his diocese, and 150 from across the nation, urged Pope Benedict XVI to remove the bishop after he sought to “renew ecclesial discipline.” Today, however, the vast majority of the diocese’s “young and numerous” clergy support him.

Bishop Livieres faced opposition from his brother bishops after he founded a major seminary and minor seminary in the diocese, thus ending the “monolithic scheme of priestly formation” at the national seminary.

Father Urrutigoity “came recommended by some cardinals with functions in the Holy See (one of them, elected a few days later Successor of Peter).” The Vatican, through the apostolic nuncio, and “with the consent of the excardinating bishop,” authorized the incardination.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith did not investigate the accusation against Father Urrutigoity because he was not accused of sexual abuse with a minor, but of an action involving an adult. The bishop is convinced of the priest’s innocence.

In time, Father Urrutigoity was subsequently appointed vicar general: he was the “almost unanimous” choice of clergy and laity who had been consulted.

Following the election of Pope Francis, Paraguay’s leading prelate, Archbishop Eustaquio Pastor Cuquejo Verga of Asunción, asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to open a new investigation into Father Urrutigoity despite the lack of any new evidence.

Bishop Livieres has also faced opposition for admitting new religious and lay communities into the diocese and for using a grant to fund the education of seminarians.

The diocese also stated that since 2004, the number of priests has risen from 79 to 140, even though 51% of aspirants to the seminary are not admitted. The number of baptisms rose from 9,543 (2004) to 21,556 (2013). “The growth and strength of the people of God in Paraguay were cruelly mutilated” by the suppression of the Jesuit missionaries in the late 18th century, the diocesan statement concluded. “Those who are betting that history will repeat itself now in our diocese” may encounter the “surprise of discovering that, this time, the Bishop of Rome is an heir to those Jesuits calumniated and suppressed.”

The strong defense of Bishop Livieres comes as the diocese awaits the final result of a Vatican-ordered investigation led by Cardinal Santos Abril y Castello. The cardinal advised Bishop Livieres immediately to suspend priestly ordinations in the diocese; he is now making a full report of his findings to Pope Francis, who will determine any further action.