Thursday, March 31, 2016

Vatican confirms investigation into financing of Cardinal Bertone's apartment

Joshua J. McElwee
National Catholic Reporter
March 31, 2016

The Vatican has opened an investigation into the financing of the restoration of former Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone’s large apartment, targeting two former executives at a children’s hospital owned by the city-state for possible redirection of funds towards the project.

Gregory Burke, the deputy director of the Vatican press office, told reporters in a short briefing Thursday that the cardinal himself was not under investigation but that two former officials of the Bambino Gesu Hospital in Rome are.

Both Giuseppe Profiti, a former president of the hospital, and Massimo Spina, a former treasurer, are subject to an ongoing investigation, Burke said.

Thursday’s confirmation follows reports in Italian press that the two executives were being investigated for the use of some 400,000 Euro towards restoration of Bertone’s apartment, based on reporting done by journalist Emiliano Fittipaldi in his November 2015 book Avarizia (“Avarice”).

While Bertone has not admitted any guilt in the matter, he made a large donation of 150,000 Euro to the hospital last December after the book’s publishing in a bid to make amends.

The cardinal, who essentially served as the Vatican’s number two official after the pope from 2006 through October 2013, has been criticized for combining two previous apartments inside the Vatican into one reportedly 6,500 square foot residence.

Bertone originally said he had gotten Pope Francis’ backing for the project, saying in April 2014 that he had received a call from the pontiff after an initial round of reporting on the new residence and that Francis expressed “his sympathy and his disappointment for the attacks against me.”

"The apartment is spacious, as is normal for the residences in the ancient palaces of the Vatican, and dutifully restored (at my expense)," Bertone wrote then in a posting on the website of the Italian archdiocese of Genoa, which the cardinal led from 2002-06.

"I may temporarily use and after me it will benefit someone else," he continued. "In the words of the Pope Saint John XXIII, 'I do not stop to pick up the stones that are thrown at me.'"

Bertone, aged 81, does not currently hold any significant office at the Vatican. He served as the secretary of state under Pope Benedict XVI and for the first few months of Francis’ pontificate, before being replaced by Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

Fittipaldi is one of two Italian journalists currently the subject of a Vatican trial for publishing confidential documents. The trial, which is ongoing, has been criticized by several international journalists’ associations as inhibiting the free press.

The Bambino Gesu is a children’s hospital owned by the Vatican and located in Rome just a short walk from the city-state. It is noted for its care and treats children from throughout Italy and Europe.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Francis appoints Hebda to replace Nienstedt in St. Paul -Minneapolis

Joshua J McElwee
National Catholic Reporter

March 24, 2016

VATICAN CITY Pope Francis has appointed a new leader for a Catholic archdiocese in the American Midwest where mismanagement of clergy sexual abuse cases led to the dual early resignations of the former archbishop and an auxiliary bishop last June.
Archbishop Bernard Hebda will now lead the archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in Minnesota, canceling his former appointment to take over the archdiocese of Newark, N.J., in July.

Hebda, a Pennsylvania native, had been serving as the apostolic administrator of the Minnesota archdiocese since Archbishop John Nienstedt’s resignation in June 2015.

Nienstedt resigned alongside Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché ten days after prosecutors in his archdiocese brought criminal charges against the archdiocese "for its failure to protect children."

Hebda’s new appointment comes as a bit of a surprise. He had previously been appointed as the coadjutor archbishop in Newark, meaning he would have automatically replaced current Newark Archbishop John Myers as head of the archdiocese at his retirement, expected to come when he turns 75 in July.

In a statement Thursday morning, Hebda said he was “humbled by this expression of Pope Francis’s confidence and honored to serve this Archdiocese with its rich history.”

The St. Paul and Minneapolis archdiocese said Hebda would hold a brief press conference at 9:00 a.m. local time Thursday. The archdiocese also said the archbishop’s installation Mass has been already scheduled for Friday, May 13.

Appointment of a new archbishop comes four months after the Midwestern archdiocese agreed to be subject to judicial oversight by local authorities for the three years to certify compliance with a series of provisions aimed at protecting children from sexual abuse.

That agreement concluded the civil aspect of charges brought against the archdiocese over its handling of abuse claims. A criminal case, which includes six misdemeanor charges, remains ongoing.

The criminal charges stem from the archdiocese’s handling of former priest Curtis Wehmeyer, who is in jail serving a five-year sentence after pleading guilty in 2012 to three felony counts of criminal sexual misconduct with two minors and 17 felony counts of possession of child pornography.

The archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in January 2015, citing specifically "the scourge of sexual abuse of minors." At the time of the filing for Chapter 11 reorganization, it estimated assets between $10 million and $50 million, liabilities between $50 million and $100 million, and listed between 200 and 1,000 creditors.

Wide complaints about Nienstedt's mishandling of sexual abuse by clergy trace to April 2013, when then-archdiocesan chancellor of canonical affairs Jennifer Haselberger resigned her position and came public, saying she had discovered unreported allegations of clergy sexual abuse and lapses in investigations.

The following news reports of Haselberger's claims led the archbishop in October 2013 to appoint a commission to do an independent lay review of the archdiocese's handling of sexual abuse allegations.

Among the "serious shortcomings" uncovered the following April by the task force of seven lay members commissioned by the archdiocese was "a flawed organizational structure with little oversight and accountability" that employed outdated reporting policies and restricted crucial information from relevant decision-makers and boards.

Hebda, aged 56, briefly worked as a lawyer before entering the seminary in Pittsburgh. In that diocese, he served as the bishop’s Master of Ceremonies, as a director of campus ministry and on the priest personnel board.

The future archbishop worked in Rome from 1996-2009 at the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts before being named the bishop of Gaylord, Mich. His appointment as coadjutor bishop in Newark, now canceled, came in September 2013.

Hebda’s new Minnesota appointment leaves open the question of who will replace Newark’s Myers, who has come under criticism for his own handling of clergy sexual abuse and for his spending on his own retirement residence.

Questions of Myers’ handling of abuse center on the fact that a priest convicted of criminal sexual contact with a minor was serving in the archdiocese as a youth minister. The Newark archdiocese has said it was unaware of the priest’s activities.

Myers has also been criticized for expanding his home to some 7,500 square feet at a cost close to one million dollars.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Vicar General hopes for healing after Lewiston Catholic church funeral controversy

Susan Olp
Montana Standard
March 20, 2016

The Rev. Jay Peterson, vicar general for the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings, is hoping for reconciliation in the aftermath of a fractious incident at Lewistown's small Catholic parish.

Peterson, who also is parochial vicar for two Catholic churches in Billings, spent 12 years on and off as a parish priest at St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Lewistown.

“I’m hoping we can move forward and find some kind of reconciliation together,” Peterson said Friday in a telephone interview.

The controversy before the start of the March 8 funeral for 92-year-old Pearl Valach had to do with whether a singer the family had included in the program should take part in the funeral. That singer, Janie Shupe, had been the church’s former music coordinator and choir director for 20 years.

Shupe had resigned her position in August 2014 and left St. Leo’s, unhappy over the way the Rev. Samuel Spiering had handled a situation involving two other parishioners. The men, Tom Wojtowick and Paul Huff, had married the year before in Seattle.

Spiering dismissed the men from their volunteer posts in the church and told them they could no longer receive Communion.

The Rev. Daniel O’Rourke, retired priest who had served many years at St. Leo’s and was a close family friend of Valach, had agreed to the family’s request to preside over the Mass on March 8. Spiering, now the parish priest, had given permission for that to happen.

Before the start of the funeral, Spiering told O’Rourke he didn’t want the singer to participate, and O’Rourke disagreed. Spiering felt it important to make a pastoral decision, and O’Rourke suggested he let it go for the funeral and deal with it later.

At that point, Peterson, another longtime friend of the Valach family, arrived and tried to propose a compromise. He wasn't challenging Spiering's canonical jurisdiction over his parish, just trying to look at it from a pastoral point of view, Peterson said.

“I said, ‘How about if Father Dan does the funeral homily, and I would be the presider at the Mass,'” Peterson said. “Father Sam and Father Dan couldn’t quite come to a mutual agreement to compromise.”

O’Rourke found the situation untenable and left the church. When the family resisted having Spiering lead the Mass, Peterson volunteered.

“They seemed relieved, and so we moved forward from there,” Peterson said.

On Friday, Peterson said the situation was painful for him because he knows all the parties involved, including both priests, the family and the singer. He’s been friends with the Valach family for 37 years.

“When things begin to fall apart before your eyes, you try to do the best you can with what you’ve got," Peterson said. "You use what you can in the moment to bring unity and healing and peace.”

He recognizes there is still work to be done. The main responsibility for that falls to Bishop Michael Warfel, head of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings.

Warfel, who sees it as a personnel issue, said Thursday that there’s not much he can say at this point other than he’s “trying to pick up some pieces.” Warfel had just returned from a two-week trip on the road and had been unreachable until Thursday.

Peterson feels an urgency to move toward restoring broken relationships.

“Even though we’re coming up on a busy week, I’m hoping things can be dealt with sooner than later to bring healing and unity and peace,” Peterson said. “If I can be part of the healing process, I would certainly love to do so.”

Friday, March 18, 2016

Despite reports, Pope Francis did not exactly 'fire' US ambassador

David Gibson
Religion News Service
March 18, 2016

The headline was eye-catching, and most likely that was the goal:
"Pope fires Vatican ambassador to U.S. over Kim Davis," shouted the story this week in the left-leaning Daily Kos.

Pretty amazing, if it were true.

In reality, Pope Francis' current ambassador, or nuncio, to the U.S., Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, was still in his job, though that could change at any minute.

Church sources say that the pontiff has chosen French-born Archbishop Christophe Pierre, now the Vatican's representative to Mexico, to be his next envoy to the U.S., a move that has generated widespread speculation about what Pierre will do when he arrives, in part because the man he is replacing has been so controversial.

Vigano gained notoriety last September when it emerged that he set up a secret meeting between Francis and Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who briefly went to jail for refusing to sign marriage certificates for gay couples.

The encounter took place at the Vatican Embassy in Washington when the pontiff was visiting the nation's capital. When news leaked a few days after Francis returned to Rome, it caused an uproar because it made it seem the pope had quietly been giving support to an icon of the very culture wars that he had spent his visit preaching against.

That also cast a shadow over what was otherwise an enormously successful and historic trip, Francis' first-ever to the U.S.

It turned out, however, that the pope had been as blindsided as everyone else. He didn't know who Davis was, church officials said, nor did he understand the implications of meeting her, and he was reportedly furious that his chief diplomatic representative in the U.S. had arranged the decidedly undiplomatic meeting.

The Italian-born Vigano was immediately called back to Rome and called on the carpet, and it was considered providential that Vigano reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 in January and could be eased out gracefully, a move that may either happen very soon or not until after Easter.

Church sources said Pierre's nomination was awaiting State Department approval, standard protocol in these diplomatic appointments, and the only holdup was likely to be the timing of the announcement.

Whether accepting Vigano's retirement papers counts as a dismissal is in the eye of the beholder: Yes, the archbishop had to submit his retirement request when he turned 75 as a matter of course. But the pope was also free to keep him on.

Even before the Davis affair, Rome didn't show great confidence in Vigano, so no one thought he would hang around long after his birthday, and last November in an address to the U.S. bishops Vigano acknowledged that it would be his last meeting with them.

Yet Francis also wanted to make sure he found the right replacement. Initial reports indicated that Archbishop Celestino Migliore, a career Vatican diplomat who knew the American scene after spending years as the Holy See's representative to the United Nations in New York, was a leading contender.

But church observers believe that Migliore, currently the Vatican representative to Poland, needs to stay in Warsaw, especially with World Youth Day and a papal visit to that country set for late July.

Moreover, Pierre, 70, speaks fluent English and "is widely recognized as one of the Holy See's most accomplished diplomats," as Gerard O'Connell, the Vatican correspondent for America magazine, wrote.

He also seems to have the kind of profile that Francis likes: Before Mexico he was the Vatican representative to Haiti and Uganda, and he served in other missions in the developing world and is familiar with issues of poverty and migration that are also priorities for this pope.

That led some reports to speculate that Pierre, if named, would make immigration reform a focus of his efforts in Washington, while gay Catholics wondered if Pierre would bring a different approach to LGBT issues.

To be sure, a new nuncio is not likely to be giving Kim Davis a call, nor is he likely to appear at the March for Marriage, a nascent annual protest against same-sex marriage in Washington that Vigano attended for two consecutive years. That the Vatican's diplomatic representative to the country would take part in what was widely seen as a domestic political demonstration in opposition to the White House always struck church insiders as odd.

The next nuncio would also have a chance to reset relations between the Holy See and the Obama administration, which could very well be succeeded by a Clinton or a Trump administration, either of which would present real challenges to the Vatican.

But the reality is that the nuncio's most important role is not so much diplomacy or politics as it is helping vet candidates for the pope to name as bishops.

Appointing bishops -- and archbishops and cardinals -- with a similar outlook is the chief way that a pope can ensure that his legacy will outlast his pontificate. Without like-minded cardinals voting for the next pope in a conclave, and without like-minded bishops in dioceses around the world, Francis' best-laid plans can disappear with him.

A case in point is the U.S. hierarchy, where the pope faces serious opposition to his reformist agenda. If he were to disappear from the scene anytime soon, it's uncertain whether his papacy would have any traction.

Up to now, Francis has taken a personal interest in a few major U.S. appointments, like that of Archbishop Blase Cupich in Chicago, and has sometimes gone around Vigano and outside the usual channels to make those selections.

But he can't do that forever -- there are thousands of other dioceses around the world to look after -- and numerous vacant American posts have gone unfilled in recent months as the pope waited to get a new man in Washington to help find the right candidates.

"If the pope wants a bishops' conference that will support him, he needs his new nuncio to name about twenty to thirty bishops who are with the program," church analyst Michael Sean Winters wrote in the National Catholic Reporter.

Winters noted that Pierre's experience in Mexico may serve him well if indeed he is appointed to Washington.

That's because some leaders of the Mexican hierarchy, like many in the U.S. church, are also not great fans of Francis. For example, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Mexico City, headed by Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, this month ran a pointed editorial pushing back strongly against Francis' critiques of the Mexican bishops when the pope spoke to them during his visit there last month.

Rivera, who is viewed as close to the country's rich and powerful, is believed to have signed off on the editorial, which was also seen as a dig at Pierre because it said Francis was either ignorant of the situation in Mexico or got "bad advice" -- advice that would have come from his nuncio.

If Pierre goes to Washington, wrote Sandro Magister, the veteran Italian Vatican-watcher -- and Francis critic -- the nuncio is likely to face a similar situation. But, Magister added, "the remodeling of the American hierarchy could see a significant acceleration."

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

French cardinal accused of coverup in widening abuse scandal

Elizabeth Bryant
Religion News Service
March 15, 2016

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called on a prominent cardinal to "assume his responsibilities" amid widening allegations of a pedophilia cover-up targeting Lyon's Roman Catholic diocese.

In an interview with BFM TV on March 15, Valls refused to comment on whether Cardinal Philippe Barbarin should step down.

The archbishop of Lyon, Barbarin has been accused of covering up alleged sexual abuse of young Boy Scouts by Lyon priest Bernard Preynat between 1986 and 1991 -- before Barbarin was named cardinal.

Last week, the Lyon prosecutors' office announced preliminary charges against Barbarin and five other members of the diocese for "nondenunciation of a crime."

Preynat was removed from service last year after his accusers came forward.

Meanwhile, France's Le Figaro newspaper reported separate sexual abuse allegations involving another Lyon priest, who has been suspended from his duties but is still serving as a priest.

"Is this the start of a 'Spotlight' a la Francaise?" Le Figaro asked, referring to the Academy Award-winning movie now playing in France.

Identified by an assumed name, "Pierre," the accuser in the initial case -- now a 42-year-old father of two -- said he met Preynat during a pilgrimage to Lourdes. Prosecutors have opened a preliminary inquiry.

Pierre told the newspaper he had approached Barbarin in 2009 after a doctor urged Pierre to press charges.

The cardinal reportedly apologized on behalf of the priest, whom he acknowledged had a "problem," notably earning a year's suspended prison sentence more than a decade ago for exhibitionism.

Contacted by the newspaper, the priest said he had "no memory" of the alleged incident.

For his part, Barbarin has steadfastly denied any cover-up, an argument he repeated on Tuesday.

"Never, never, never have I covered up any act of pedophilia," he said at a press conference in Lourdes.

The cardinal said he had suspended the second priest of his duties "until justice has been done."

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Vatican PR 'vowed to destroy priest' over leaks

Agence France-Presse
March 15, 2016

Francesca Chaouqui, the PR consultant at the centre of the Vatican's controversial leaks trial, threatened to "destroy" a Spanish priest she worked with, a Holy See court heard on Tuesday.

"I will destroy you in the press and you know I can do it," Choauqui allegedly wrote in a WhatsAPP message to Spanish monsignor Lucio Angel Vallejo Balda that was cited by the prosecution in the case against two journalists and three Vatican employees.

Vallejo Balda has admitted leaking classified documents to the two journalists, who have written books on the mismanagement of Vatican finances.

But he says he only did so under pressure from Chaouqui, with whom he claims to have had a "compromising" relationship.

Chaouqui, a former PR consultant to the Vatican who is married and six months pregnant, denies any sexual contact between her former colleague in an economic reform panel set up by Pope Francis.

Vallejo Balda reiterated his claim to have been effectively blackmailed by a woman he believed to have links to Italian secret services and other contacts in a "dangerous world".

"She boasted about having lots of details about my private life, my assets and my problems with the tax authorities," he said, claiming he had subsequently been encouraged by journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi to "make peace" with his colleague.

"I felt they knew things about me," he added.

Lucio Angel Vallejo BaldaChaouqui took particular exception to a suggestion in the Spanish cleric's testimony on Monday that she had claimed to have contacts in the mafia.

Arriving at court for Tuesday's hearing, she showed a university legal thesis which she had dedicated to the slain anti-mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.

"Accusing me of being connected to the mafia, as someone from (mafia-infested southern region) Calabria -- it is the worst attack that could be made on me," she told reporters.

At the end of Tuesday's session, Chaouqui jumped up suddenly and rushed out of the room holding her hand over her mouth. Doctors and police were called but she appeared again shortly afterwards, the malaise apparently having passed.

Her lawyer said Chaouqui may need to go into hospital for a procedure related to her pregnancy. The presiding judge said that subject to the appropriate certification that could lead to a further delay in the trial, which is due to resume on Friday.

Chaouqui is accused of conspiring with Vallejo Balda and his assistant Nicola Maio to leak data and documents they had access to as members of a commission appointed by Pope Francis to spearhead a financial clean-up shortly after his election in 2013.

The two journalists on trial, Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, have published books based on the documents.

All five accused have been prosecuted under draconian anti-leaks legislation, which could see them receive prison terms of between four and eight years.

The law was rushed onto the Vatican statue book in 2013 as a result of the fallout from the first Vatileaks scandal, which centred on secrets divulged by the butler of now-retired Pope Benedict XVI.

The Vatican has been criticised by press freedom groups for pursuing the prosecution of the two journalists, who say they were only doing their jobs.

Crux will continue with the Knights of Columbus as its partner

Crux staff
March 15, 2016

Crux will live to see another day.

Veteran Vatican reporter John L. Allen Jr., associate editor of Crux, and the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, have announced that they will enter into a partnership in which Crux will remain an independent news outlet headed by Allen and Vatican correspondent Inés San Martín.

Allen said the joint project is designed to make one of the world’s best known Catholic news platforms even stronger. The partnership will combine the Knights’ resources and spirit of service with the journalistic experience and commitment of Crux.

As part of the project, Catholic Pulse, a news and commentary website operated by the Knights of Columbus, will merge with Crux, adding its resources to Crux’s blend of staff-generated reporting and analysis with pieces by respected guest contributors. The Crux website will feature the tagline: “Keeping its finger on the Catholic Pulse.”

The announcement comes less than a week after The Boston Globe announced that it would no longer support Crux financially, citing a lack of advertising revenue. The Globe launched the Catholic website in September, 2014 with Allen as its lead reporter, San Martín based in Rome, Michael O’Loughlin as national reporter, and Margery Eagan as a spirituality columnist. Other columnists and freelancers rounded out the editorial features.

The Globe is turning the site’s assets over to Allen, and will help him with his transition to the new website.

Pennsylvania state leaders call for change in statute of limitations for child sexual abuse

Karen Langley
Pittsburgh Post Gazette
March 15, 2016

In the wake of a grand jury report alleging extensive child sexual abuse in the Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Attorney General Kathleen Kane and other state leaders called Monday for legislators to change statutes of limitations for child sexual abuse.

After changes in 2002 and 2006 following abuse scandals, victims of child sexual abuse in Pennsylvania can now bring criminal cases until their 50th birthdays and civil lawsuits until their 30th birthdays.

Speaking in the Capitol, Ms. Kane called for an end of limitations for criminal and civil cases.

“We ask ourselves as a society, who are we?” she said. ”Do we protect our children? Do we make sure that child sexual abusers never stop looking over their shoulder? Or do we protect the rapists?”

Delilah Rumburg, CEO of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, said most child victims wait many years before they can talk about what happened to them.

Brenda Dick, 49, of Altoona, said she would have kept secret that she had been abused as a child by a cousin if another cousin had not said that she, too, had been touched.

“I want to die knowing that this statute of limitations is gone,” she said. “Look at my face, and look at every children’s face you see for the rest of your lives, and ask yourself, were they a victim, oh God, could they have been?”

Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, an advocate for the changes, singled out House Judiciary Committee, Chairman Ron Marsico, R-Dauphin, as he called for the legislation to pass.

Steve Miskin, spokesman for House Republicans, said he expects the panel to take up the legislation in the next few weeks.

“The chairman supports removing or eliminating the statute of limitations in criminal cases,” he said.

Marci Hamilton, a Yeshiva University law professor and expert on the subject, said the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference has stood in the way of changes.

Amy Hill, spokeswoman for the conference, said that anyone who sexually abuses a child should be severely punished by the law. She said the conference is reviewing proposals on statutes of limitations, but that generally it agrees with the state Task Force on Child Protection, which in a 2012 report said it believed the statute of limitations was adequate.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Vatican leaks scandal: Spanish priest admits to passing classified documents

March 14, 2016

A Spanish priest has admitted to leaking classified Vatican documents to journalists, saying he had felt intimidated.

Monsignor Angel Lucio Vallejo Balda has said he was manipulated by a woman co-defendant with whom he was romantically entangled.

He was questioned as the so-called Vatileaks II trial resumed.

It centres on two books that depict a Vatican plagued by graft and where Pope Francis faces resistance to his agenda.

The books came out last year and were based on the leaked information. The five people on trial face jail terms of up to eight years. Mr Vallejo Balda, 54, was questioned for three hours and most of his testimony revolved around his relationship with Francesca Chaouqui, 35, a married public relations consultant.

They were members of a now-defunct commission appointed by Pope Francis to tackle the Vatican's financial holdings and propose reforms to improve cash flow to the poor.

"Yes, I passed documents," Mr Vallejo Balda told the court in Spanish.

He also admitted to giving one of the authors some 87 passwords to access electronic documents and email accounts in the Vatican. 'Compromised'

The priest said his actions were the result of a combination of sexual tension and blackmail by Ms Chaouqui, who claimed she was a spy with Italy's secret services.

Saying he felt "compromised" as a priest, Mr Vallejo Balda recounted how she once entered his room in a Florence hotel.

Ms Chaouqui is also accused of leaking confidential Vatican documents

The priest, at one point, described the feeling of being "in a situation with no way out".

In the testimony, he also said he received threatening messages from Ms Chaouqui and her husband, especially after the commission's work was over.

Ms Chaouqui, who is in late pregnancy, attended the hearing and is expected to give evidence next week.

She denies accusations of conspiring with Mr Vallejo Balda and his assistant Nicola Maio to leak information they had access to as members of the commission.

The two journalists on trial, Gianluigi Nuzzi and Emiliano Fittipaldi, wrote the books Avarice and Merchants in the Temple.

They are accused of putting pressure on the priest and Ms Chaouqui to get the documents, allegation both journalists deny. The five are on trial under a legislation criminalising the leaking of documents, introduced in 2013 after a scandal known as the first Vatileaks.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Three years on, Pope leaves conservatives feeling marginalized

Philip Pullella and Tom Heneghan
March 12, 2016

Three years after the election of Pope Francis, Roman Catholic conservatives are growing increasingly worried that he is quietly unraveling the legacy of his predecessors.

Francis' popularity with most Catholics, and legions of non-Catholics, has given him the image of a grandfatherly parish priest who understands how difficult it sometimes is to follow Church teachings, particularly those on sexual morality.

Conservatives worry that behind the gentle facade lies a dangerous reformer who is diluting Catholic teaching on moral issues like homosexuality and divorce while focusing on social problems such as climate change and economic inequality.

Interviews with four Vatican officials, including two cardinals and an archbishop, as well as theologians and commentators, highlighted conservative fears that Francis' words and deeds may eventually rupture the 1.2 billion member Church.

Chatter on conservative blogs regularly accuses the Argentine pontiff of spreading doctrinal confusion and isolating those who see themselves as guardians of the faith.

"Going to bed. Wake me up when this pontificate is over," Damien Thompson, associate editor of the British weekly The Spectator and a conservative Catholic commentator tweeted last month. Thompson was among conservatives stung by a freewheeling news conference Francis gave on a flight home from Mexico.

In it, he stirred up the U.S. presidential debate by criticizing Republican candidate Donald Trump's immigration stance and made comments that were interpreted as an opening to use contraceptives to stop the spread of the Zika virus.

They were the latest in a line of unscripted utterances that have left many conservatives feeling nostalgic for the days of Francis's two predecessors, Benedict and John Paul, who regularly thundered against contraception, homosexuality and abortion.

"Every time this happens I wonder if he realizes how much confusion he is causing," said a conservative Rome-based cardinal who took part in the conclave that elected Francis three years ago and spoke on the condition of anonymity. He would not say if he voted for Francis because participants in conclaves are sworn to secrecy.

The pope and the pews

Another senior official, an archbishop in an important Vatican ministry, said: "These comments alarm not only tradition-minded priests but even liberal priests who have complained to me that people are challenging them on issues that are very straight-forward, saying 'the pope would let me do this' why don't you?'"

Francis first shocked conservatives just months after his election on March 13, 2013, when he said "Who am I to judge?" about Catholic homosexuals who were at least trying to live by Church rules that they should be chaste.

He caused further upset when he changed church rules to allow women to take part in a male-only Lenten service, ruled out any campaigns to convert Jews and approved a "common prayer" with Lutherans for joint commemorations for next year's 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation.

An important crossroads in the conservative-progressive showdown is looming and might come as early as mid-March. It could reveal how far this politically astute pontiff wants to transform his Church.

Francis is due to issue a document called an Apostolic Exhortation after two years of debate and two major meetings of bishops to discuss the family -- the Vatican's way of referring to its policies concerning sex.

The exercise, which began with an unprecedented poll of Catholics around the world, boiled down in the end to one hot-button issue -- whether divorced Catholics who remarry outside the Church can receive communion at the central rite of Mass.

Conservatives say any change would undermine the principle of the indissolubility of marriage that Jesus established.

At the end of the synod last year, Francis excoriated immovable Church leaders who he said "bury their heads in the sand" and hide behind rigid doctrine while families suffer.

The gathering's final document spoke of a so-called "internal forum" in which a priest or a bishop may work with a Catholic who has divorced and remarried to decide privately and on a case-by-case basis if he or she can be fully re-integrated.

That crack in the doctrinal door annoyed many conservatives, who fear Francis' upcoming document may open the flood gates.

Whose church is it anyway?

It is difficult to quantify Catholic conservatives. Liberals say they are a minority and reject conservative assertions that they are the real "base" of the Church.

"The overwhelming majority of Catholics understand what the pope wants to do, and that is to reach out to everyone," said another cardinal close to Francis.

Regardless of what their actual numbers might be, conservatives have big megaphones in social media.

"It really has gotten more shrill and intense since Francis took over because he seems to get only positive feedback from the mainstream media. Therefore in the strange logic of [conservative] groups, he is someone who is immediately suspect if only for that," said the Catholic blogger Arthur Rosman.

One of the leading conservative standard bearers, Ross Douthat, the Catholic author and New York Times op-ed columnist, has expressed deep worry about the long-term repercussions of the issue of communion for the divorced and remarried.

"It may be that this conflict has only just begun," Douthat said in a lecture to American conservatives in January. "And it may be that as with previous conflicts in Church history, it will eventually be serious enough to end in real schism, a permanent parting of the ways."

Previous Rupture

The last internal rupture in the Church was in 1988 when French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre consecrated bishops without Vatican approval in order to guarantee succession in his ultra-traditionalist group, the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX).

The SSPX rejects the modernizing reforms of the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council, including the historic opening to dialogue with other religions. While it remains a small group, its dissent continues to undermine papal authority.

The conservative standard bearer in Rome is Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, a 67-year-old American who in 2014 told an interviewer that the Church under Francis was like "a ship without a rudder".

Francis was not pleased. That same year, he removed Burke as head of the Vatican's highest court and demoted him to the largely ceremonial post of chaplain of a charity group.

Conservatives are also worried about Francis' drive to devolve decision-making power on several issues from the Vatican to regional, national or diocesan levels, what the pope has called "a healthy decentralization".

This is an anathema to conservatives, who say rules should be applied identically around the world. They warn that a devolution of power would leave the Vatican vulnerable to the splits seen in the Anglican and Orthodox Churches.

"If you look at these two big Churches, they are not in very good shape," said Massimo Faggioli, a Church historian and associate professor of theology at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. "That's why conservatives are nervous. They think Francis does not understand the danger."

Pope's abuse accountability commission going nowhere fast

Nicole Winfield
Associated Press
March 9, 2016

Pope Francis' proposed Vatican tribunal to judge bishops who covered up for pedophile priests is going nowhere fast.

Despite fresh focus from the Oscar-winning film "Spotlight" on how Catholic bishops protected priests who raped children, Francis' most significant sex abuse-related initiative to date has stalled. It's a victim of a premature roll-out, unresolved legal and administrative questions and resistance both inside and outside of the Holy See, church officials and canon lawyers say.

The surprise proposal made headlines when it was announced on June 10 as the first major initiative of Francis' sex abuse advisory commission. A Vatican communique said Francis and his nine cardinal advisers had unanimously agreed to create a new judicial section within the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to handle "abuse of office" cases against bishops accused of failing to protect their flocks from pedophiles.

But the proposal immediately raised red flags to canon lawyers and Vatican officials alike.

For starters, the congregation, which since 2001 has been the clearing house for all church abuse cases around the world, wasn't consulted or even informed. As is, the congregation is understaffed and overwhelmed processing hundreds of backlogged cases of priests who molested children, advising dioceses on how to proceed.

"In reality, the congregation knows nothing about this. The question has just been left there. It hasn't been dealt with," said the Rev. Davide Cito, canon lawyer at Rome's Pontifical Holy Cross University who has helped investigate abuse cases for the congregation.

The Vatican communique said a new secretary for the congregation and staff would be appointed, and adequate resources allocated. But nine months later, no appointments have been made. Francis recently repeated that he would appoint the secretary, but even once in place, he will be starting from scratch on an uphill battle.

"We're confident that the Holy Father's announcement of his intention to name a secretary for the Discipline Section is a clear sign that the implementation of his earlier decisions will be expedited," the head of the sex abuse advisory commission, Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley, said in a statement to The Associated Press.

But to even a casual observer, the original announcement raised significant bureaucratic questions. It tasked three other Vatican congregations with conducting preliminary investigations into accused bishops, a hurdle in and of itself given their limited resources and expertise. In addition, the Vatican's various congregations operate as individual fiefdoms: By what mechanism would these three fiefdoms then turn their cases over to a new tribunal?

"When it was announced I knew it would be a problem," said Kurt Martens, professor of canon law at The Catholic University of America in Washington.

He said a key question that must be resolved is the negligence standard by which bishops would be judged. Would bishops be held to the same standard of reporting abusers to police when civil reporting laws differ from country to country? What about prescription and retroactivity: Could bishops who botched abuse cases five, 10 or 20 years ago be brought before the new tribunal?

"It's a huge issue," Martens said. "Where do you draw the line?"

Two church officials familiar with the proposal said there had been no follow-up since the tribunal section was announced. Two other church officials involved also said they too knew of no progress to date. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to comment publicly on a sensitive, papal-mandated proposal.

One of the officials, a canon lawyer, said some fundamental questions remain unresolved: Who denounces whom? Who decides that a trial is necessary? Canon law already says only the pope can judge a bishop. Why single out abuse of office for botching sex abuse cases when another abuse, financial malfeasance, is also a church crime?

More than any of his predecessors, Francis has said bishops must be held accountable if they moved abusive priests from parish to parish rather than reporting them to church and state authorities.

"You must not cover up, and even those who covered up these things are guilty," Francis told reporters Sept. 28 en route home from Philadelphia, where he met with abuse victims.

And so his decision to authorize a tribunal was met with jubilation — and heightened expectations — among abuse survivors and those who have been following the scandal. Recently, a top Vatican official, Cardinal George Pell, even suggested a prime candidate for the tribunal was his former bishop in Ballarat, Australia.

Anne Barrett Doyle, of, which tracks the abuse scandal, said survivors as well as ordinary Catholics began sending dossiers to the Vatican requesting investigations into compromised bishops as soon as the tribunal was announced.

"We know because some of the earnest people compiling these dossiers contacted us," she said. She said it was disappointing but not altogether surprising to learn that no progress had been made.

That said, under Francis' watch, two U.S. bishops who bungled abuse cases have resigned on their own: Bishop Robert Finn in Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, and Archbishop John Nienstedt in St. Paul and Minneapolis. They weren't hauled before a Vatican tribunal, but were presumably pressured by the Vatican to step down after civil authorities got involved, to date the main way the Vatican gets rid of a compromised bishop.

But such arm-twisting resignations do little to "repair scandal and restore justice," which the church's penal law system is supposed to accomplish, Martens said. "It's almost as if you're guilty and you can pick your punishment and you're being given a way out."

U.S. canon lawyer Nicholas Cafardi similarly noted that it's not always easy to get a bishop to resign voluntarily, and that while canonical trials were always a possibility, now there is at least a specific proposed tribunal to do the job when Vatican pressure isn't successful.

"The request to resign now has more substance behind it than it had previously, which is an important effect of the new procedures not to be lightly dismissed," he said in an email.

But the whole proposal itself is somewhat problematic given the cardinal designated by the pope to push it through, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has a questionable past himself. When Cardinal Gerhard Mueller was bishop of Regensburg, Germany, he appointed a convicted pedophile as a parish priest in violation of the German bishops' own norms forbidding sex offenders from working with juveniles.

The priest, the Rev. Peter Kramer, went on to abuse more children in his new posting and in 2008 was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison plus psychiatric treatment.

At the time, Mueller defended his decision saying the church bore no responsibility for the actions of its priests, and that if Jesus can forgive sinners, certainly the church can give them second chances as well.

In a recent interview with German daily Kolner Stadt Anzeiger, Mueller decried the "bitter injustice" that Catholic clergy on the whole have suffered collectively because of the "immature and disturbed personality" of a few priests. He said he also has a real problem with what he called the "glib accusation of cover-up."

Mueller didn't respond to a request for comment on the status of the accountability tribunal.

Martens, the Belgian-born Catholic University canon lawyer, said the resistance to the tribunal isn't even greatest within the Vatican.

"If I were a bishop I would not be happy with this," he said. "Because it comes out of the blue and is completely unknown territory and no one knows what the standards and procedures might be. That might cause some difficulties and problems."

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Lawmaker wants to investigate every diocese in Pennsylvania

Sam Janesch
Lancaster Online
March 10, 2016

A Berks County Democrat is calling for every district attorney in Pennsylvania to expand efforts to track child sexual abuse by priests.

In the wake of a grand jury investigation into abuse within the Altoona-Johnstown diocese, state Rep. Mark Rozzi said Wednesday he’d like to see a stronger effort to address the abuse in every part of the state.

"I honestly believe that every diocese should be investigated and opened up with a grand jury," Rozzi said during a news conference Wednesday, according to WITF. "That's my own personal opinion. We should look at every single one. As a Catholic, as a victim, I want to know the answer."

Rozzi, who says he was sexually abused by a priest when he was a teenager, said his office has received dozens of calls from victims of abuse over the years.

“I get so many emails and calls from victims out there looking for justice,” said Rozzi, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Rozzi asked district attorneys to open hotlines in their counties to take calls from victims. He also reiterated his push to extend the civil statute of limitations for child abuse victims.

According to WITF, the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association said the existing hotline for child abuse complaints, Childline, is a method for district attorneys and law enforcement to be referred allegations of abuse.

The Office of Attorney General, following the release of the grand jury report, also opened a hotline for those willing to provide information related to the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. The office announced Tuesday it had received 150 calls in the previous week.

Pope Francis cracks down on secretive Vatican department dubbed 'the Saints factory'

Nick Squires
The Telegraph
March 10, 2016

Pope Francis launched a stern crackdown on the murky, secretive process of canonisations on Thursday, months after a scandal engulfed a Vatican department nicknamed “the Saints’ Factory”.

The Pope imposed strict new regulations demanding much greater transparency and accountability in the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which handles the complex, opaque world of promoting worthy Catholics to sainthoods.

The 23 new rules included a warning that disciplinary measures will be taken against anyone suspected of abusing the system.

The new regime was introduced after leaked Vatican documents published last year revealed that the process was rife with waste, nepotism, favouritism and corruption, with wealthy patrons spending hundreds of thousands of pounds to have their favoured candidate made a saint.

A process designed to elevate worthy candidates to the highest pedestal in the Catholic firmament was found to be anything but saintly in the way that it carried out its business.

A book published last year, written by an Italian investigative journalist, revealed that the Church had no oversight of the “postulators” who were paid to research the good deeds of worthy candidates and then advance their cases towards canonisation.

Based on leaked, confidential Vatican documents, the book – Merchants in the Temple – found that on average it cost €500,000 (£390,000) to promote a cause for sainthood.

The money was paid to theologians, bishops, doctors and lawyers who were involved in deciding whether or not a person should be placed on the path to sainthood, in a process that can take decades.

In one case, involving the beatification in 2007 of Antonio Rosmini, an Italian priest and philosopher of the 19th century, the price was €750,000.

There was plenty of opportunity to make money – it was revealed that there are 2,500 pending sainthood cases, handled by 450 postulators.

Donors and religious orders had to pay an initial fee of 50,000 just for nominating their candidate, the book claimed.

The leaked documents showed that one postulator also owned a printing business which had a virtual monopoly on printing all the documents required to support cases for beatification and sainthood.

Pope Francis was so appalled at the corruption in the whole process that, in an unprecedented move, he ordered the freezing of bank accounts held by postulators at the Vatican bank, with the accounts together worth €40 million.

He appointed a fact-finding commission which discovered that postulators received large sums of cash without entering the money into official records.

Under the new regulations, money intended to advance a saintly cause must be properly documented and be managed by an administrator. The administrator must keep a record of donations and expenditure, drawing up a budget each year.

Pope Francis also tightened up the mechanism by which funds left over from one cause should be used to help the causes of candidates from poorer countries, whose supporters do not have the ability to fund the necessary research.

To be beatified, a candidate must be shown to have performed a miracle – typically the healing of a disease or ailment which the Catholic Church claims cannot be explained by science.

Canonisation requires a second miracle.

Are you a good person?

The Pope’s crackdown comes just days before he is expected to set the official date for the canonisation of Mother Theresa, which is likely to happen in September.

Gianluigi Nuzzi, the journalist who wrote Merchants in the Temple, is on trial with four other people accused of leaking and publishing confidential documents that revealed intrigue and decadence within the Holy See.

The "Vatileaks" trial is due to resume on Monday. The other defendants include a second Italian journalist who also wrote an expose of Vatican mismanagement and skulduggery, as well as a Spanish monsignor and an Italian woman who was hired as a public relations expert. If convicted they all face up to eight years in prison.

The Vatican has been heavily criticised around the world for putting the two journalists on trial, with press freedom campaigners saying they were merely doing their jobs.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

is Notre Dame loyal or disloyal to Catholic church?

It's interesting how the same event can be seen in much different lights by different folks. Recently the University of Notre Dame announced it would award it's prestigious Laetare award to two Catholic politicians John Boehner and Joe Biden.

David Gibson of the Religion News Service sees it this way:
Notre Dame rebukes ugly politics, gives award to Biden and Boehner

Vice President Joe Biden and former House Speaker John Boehner, devout Catholics and longtime political foes, will share a prestigious honor from the University of Notre Dame in a pointed rebuke to the polarization and ugliness of American politics shown perhaps most vividly in the Republican nominating contest currently led by Donald Trump.

"We live in a toxic political environment where poisonous invective and partisan gamesmanship pass for political leadership," Notre Dame's president, Fr. John Jenkins, said in statement announcing that Biden, a Democrat, and Boehner, a Republican, would receive the 2016 Laetare Medal.

......... read the full article here

Meanwhile the ultra conservative Cardinal Newman Society weighs in with
University of Notre Dame Will Give Its Highest Award to Pro-Abortion Vice-President Joe Biden

Notre Dame has once again chosen to betray the Church and its Catholic mission. Notre Dame has announced that it will bestow its 2016 Laetare Medal, the “oldest and most prestigious honor accorded to American Catholics,” on pro-abortion Vice President Joe Biden. This time, however, the offense is even greater: a pro-abortion Catholic politician is being honored as one “whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the Church [emphasis added] and enriched the heritage of humanity.”

......... read the full article here

In other words, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. The culture wars continue unabated.

India: meet the martyrs of Hindu fanaticism

Paolo Affatato
Vatican Insider
March 7, 2016

The words pronounced by John Barwa, Bishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar in the Indian state of Orissa, at the plenary session of Indian bishops that runs until 9 March in Bangalore, were decisive. This and the slaying of the Mother Teresa nuns in Yemen, which bishops heard about during their meetings, roused them to action.

The 180 bishops of the world’s largest democracy are united in their wish to proclaim the victims of the anti-Christian massacres in Orissa in 2008 martyrs, Vatican Insider has learnt.

The ordeal which faithful in the district of Kandhamal - a district of the eastern Indian state of Odisha – went through, was a dark moment in India’s history. It was the most severe case of anti-Christian violence ever recorded. The pretext for the violence was the accusation that local Christians were responsible for the killing of a Hindu leader. The news later proved to be false. It started in August 2008 and went on for almost four months, claiming the lives of around a hundred people, while over 56,000 became refugees after being permanently sent away from their villages.

Thousands of militants went on a rampage that razed over 350 churches and Christian places of worship to the ground, destroyed around 6,500 homes, and led to the ransacking of dozens of schools and institutes. More than 40 women, some of them nuns, were raped and there was abuse and humiliation, while many were forced to convert to Hinduism.

This was a case of full-fledged “ethnic cleansing”, carefully planned by Hindu radical groups who staged pogroms purely motivated by religion. This blind violence in odium fidei could earn victims official martyr status.

The bishop of Barwa, confided to Vatican Insider that he was positively impressed by the fact that Indian bishops have shown such a strong interest in the Christians who were persecuted in Orissa,” stating that the assembly could reiterate in writing, in the final declaration issued at the end of the meetings, “its intention to take the necessary steps to proclaim these new Indian martyrs”.

The Church in Orissa has already instituted a special Day named after them, which, it has suggested, should be celebrated on an annual basis. Preparations are also being made to begin the diocesan phase of the canonization process. A group of priests and lay people are busy putting together a detailed list of the victims, with the dates and circumstances of their deaths, gathering all necessary documentation as well as eye witness statements.

“Commemorating that massacre will ensure something like that never happens again. For us it is a way to express our wish for full reconciliation,” said Ajay Kumar Singh, a priest from Kandhamal working in the commission that is gathering testimonies.

Numerous Indian bishops and cardinals have visited the district in question, expressing solidarity with the survivors. Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay and President of the Indian Bishops’ Conference and the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, publicly said he was in favour of “opening the cause for the martyrs of Kandhamal”.

Gracias explained that he spoke to the Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints and expressed his intention to “speak to Pope Francis in person”. “The Church is sensitive to modern martyrs,” he stated, remarking that “the role of the new testimonies is very important”.

The other Indian cardinal, Baselios Cleemis, wrote a letter to Bishop Barwa stressing the following: “Assure the brothers and sisters who have suffered and continue to suffer in Orissa of the commitment and firm support of the Bishops’ Conference”. His words say a lot about how the martyr’s cause has been welcomed by the subcontinent’s hierarchy.

The official support expressed by the assembly of Indian bishops is a major help to the Catholic Church in Orissa, on many levels. If the entire Catholic Church in India supports it then the martyrdom recognition process will be smoother.

The events in Orissa were the tip of the iceberg in the context of a phenomenon that still causes concern. In 2015 over 200 incidents of violence against Christians were recorded in India. Seven Protestant pastors and one layman were killed, while a total of around 8,000 people, including women and children, were victims of violence. This is according to a report titled “India Christian Persecution”, edited by the Christian Secular Forum (CSF), an organisation that brings together faithful of different denominations.

According to the report, the perpetrators of this violence are extremist groups who promote the Hindutva (“Hinduness”) ideology , which aims to eradicate non Hindus from India. These groups are hostile towards religious minorities and endorse a campaign of hatred and defamation which leads to concrete acts of violence.

Diocese of Gary investigating Trump inspired racial taunts

Michael O'laughlin
March 2, 2016

Ever wonder if Donald Trump’s rhetoric about Mexicans and undocumented immigrants makes an impact on the ground? Look no further than Gary, Indiana.

At a high school basketball game between two Catholic schools last week, a group of students wearing patriotic clothing held up images of Trump and taunted Hispanic students and fans from the other school.

Fans of Andrean High School in Merrillville, Ind., displayed a banner reading, “ESPN Deportes,” and chanted, “Build that wall!” a reference to Trump’s campaign promise to erect a wall along the US-Mexico border, in order to keep out “rapists” and drug dealers from Mexico.

Fans of Bishop Noll High School responded with chants of, “You’re racist!”

Bishop Donald J. Hying said in a statement that the incident remains under investigation.

“Any actions or words that can be perceived as racist or derogatory to others are antithetical to the Christian faith and will not be tolerated in any of our institutions,” he said. “It was the furthest thing from anyone’s mind that such actions would be happening at a gathering of two of our Catholic high schools. This is not what we teach our students.”

“Jesus is at the center of all we do and his message was and is one of inclusion and respect for all people,” he continued. “I take this incident to heart and again state that it is not to be tolerated, even as a childish prank.”

The principals of the two schools met Feb. 28 “to plan steps for moving forward,” and released statements condemning the taunts.

“As an institution of Catholic education, we view this challenge as an opportunity to remind our students and staff of their call to bring glory to God, while serving his people with love, compassion and mercy,” said Andrean High School principal Rick Piwowarski.

“We will be taking steps within our halls, in (collaboration) with the diocesan administration and Bishop Noll, to ensure that all of our students and staff understand their obligations of responsibility, acceptance and sportsmanship,” he said.

Bishop Noll High School principal Craig Stafford called the incident “a teachable moment,” and suggested political rhetoric may have contributed to the taunts.

“Perhaps (the incident) was an unfortunate byproduct of irresponsible speech in today’s political arena,” he said. “We are proud of our diversity. Our diversity is our strength. Bishop Noll will continue to educate our students in faith, social justice and to always respect all people, regardless of race, creed or socioeconomic status.”

This isn’t the first time Trump’s rhetoric has been blamed for hostile actions.

Last summer, police accused two Boston brothers of beating a homeless Mexican man sleeping outside a transit station. Following their arrest, one of the men pointed to Trump as his motivation for the attack.

“Donald Trump was right; all these illegals need to be deported,” Scott Leader said.

When asked about the incident, Trump said his followers were “very passionate” and that they “love this country and they want this country to be great again.”

Trump is the frontrunner for the GOP nomination, having won seven of 11 Super Tuesday contests.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Off with his hat! Why we want to see cardinals punished in the abuse scandal

Cathy Lynn Grossman
Religion News Service
March 3, 2016

We’ve all seen some sad spectacle about the Catholic Church this week.

“Spotlight” – portraying Boston Globe’s shattering expose of Cardinal Bernard Law’s archdiocese sheltering, promoting and protecting sex-abusive priests – won the Academy Award for Best Picture prize.

The next day, Australian Cardinal George Pell testified to a Vatican commission that he cared little or nothing about the victims of sex abuse – even as he called such neglect “indefensible.”

Thursday (March 3) , he met with Australian abuse victims and pledged to work with them on care and compensation for people who had experienced abuse.

Is that enough?

Between Law and Pell, two princes of the church, we have witnessed decades of the church staggering to recognize and apologize for its failure to protect uncountable numbers of victims.

Here and there, a bishop has stepped aside. Just last month, Pope Francis said on his flight home from Mexico that any bishop who moved an abusive priest from one parish to another should resign.

Sadly, that stark comment was lost in the hubbub over his remark on Donald “not a Christian” Trump.

But even if anyone had noticed — is that comment still too little, too late?

Forgive me, Lord, but like many outraged by this scandal — Catholic and non-Catholic alike — I still want a perp walk.

You remember the perp walk — accused bad guys led off before cameras. It leapt from TV crime shows to the financial front pages in 2002 when we were treated to scenes of humiliated, hand-cuffed Enron top executives facing charges for financial chicanery. Suits in cuffs!

I don’t need to see handcuffs on cardinals but the optical equivalent would work. I want to see someone take Cardinal Pell aside and make him turn in his red cap.

Francis doesn’t need to publicly show this, like a disgraced legionnaire getting publicly stripped of his epaulettes in old movies. But a photo of Pell, sans cardinal regalia, toting his own suitcase back to Sydney to face the music there, would work for me.

The Sydney Morning Herald puts it bluntly: “If Pope Francis wants to retain his reputation as the people’s Pope he must force Cardinal George Pell to either resign or retire.”

Pell didn’t resign Thursday. Neither did he retire. And would retirement be good enough? Consider Cardinal Law.

Law was forced to resign as archbishop of Boston after his own priests went public calling for him to go. And go he did – to a posting in Rome where, for years, he was assigned a lovely church for saying Mass and served on the secretariat that suggests names to the pope for potential new bishops. He still lives far from those he harmed.

There’s my problem, wrapped in cardinal red.

The Rev. Thomas Reese, an expert on Vatican polity, explains the dilemma: Cardinals are princes of the church and bishops are its nobles. They can’t resign from their spiritual status. But they can resign from their institutional role.

“The minimum we want is for them to stand up and say that they did wrong and they take full personal responsibility and resign. If they did that, I think we can accept that. We might even forgive them,” said Reese.

“But when they fight tooth and nail to stay in their job with all its perks, we are offended,” he said.

“The cardinals wear read because they are willing to die for the church,” said Reese. “They ought to be willing to take a bullet for the good of the church and resign. It’s the closest thing the church has to capital punishment.”

Why do I feel so vengeful about this? And am I alone in this feeling? I suspect not.

It’s human, says criminologist and lawyer Gray Cavender, who co-authored a scholarly paper on the social and emotional dynamics of the “perp walk” in the Enron case.

“We all grew up with movies and novels where the story ends with the bad guy getting shot or arrested. We like that. It seems just. They hurt someone and they shouldn’t get away with it.”

“There is a symbolic dimension to punishment. It expresses society’s condemnation of the wrongdoer,” said Cavender, a professor in the department of Justice and Social Inquiry in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University.

Cavender was well aware of the decades of abuse within the church. He cited the 1985 expose on victims in Louisiana published by the National Catholic Reporter and the early 1990s years when Dallas journalists revealed the church’s failure to remove a pedophile priest, Rudolph Kos.

(The “Spotlight” movie alludes briefly to earlier investigations and then, tragically, to how the Globe, too, had lightly covered the issue and then let it drop for years before turning full force on it in 2002.)

“What makes the Catholic Church’s situation doubly a problem is that it went on for so long and even when exposes were written, it still went on,” Cavender said.

We are angry that leaders of “a powerful institution, one that people revere and love, knew they were hurting people and hid it and lied about it. People are suffering victimization,” he said.

This underlies our applause for the Spotlight ensemble’s Oscar night message that this honor be a message all the way to the Vatican.

The Vatican response: It was full of praise for the film, coupled with long lists of all the things the church is now doing to try to right the wrongs. It’s even set up an internal court to examine colluding clerics.

It just hasn’t heard any cases yet.

And too much time has gone by apologies to be sufficient.

The public, says Cavender, is past that. “Saying sorry is not enough.

There are harms not reparable by apologies, he said. What we want them to do is ‘own it.’ There is a symbolic, communicative aspect to punishment. We need to see it.”


Saturday, March 5, 2016

Pope Francis condemns 'diabolical' killing of nuns in Yemen

Marcy 5, 2016

Pope Francis has condemned the killing of 16 people, including four Catholic nuns, at an old people's home in Yemen.

He called Friday's gun attack in Aden an "act of senseless and diabolical violence".

Reports said the attackers pretended they were visiting their mothers to gain access to the home.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, though Yemeni officials have blamed so-called Islamic State.

In a statement, the Vatican said two of the nuns killed were Rwandan, one was Indian and one was from Kenya. 'Pointless slaughter'

They were working as nurses at the home and had been serving breakfast to its 80 residents when the attack occurred.

All the victims were shot in the head and had been handcuffed, the Associated Press reported, citing the brother of a victim.

The nuns were from the Missionaries of Charity congregation, which runs the home and was founded in Calcutta by Mother Teresa. Map

Pope Francis "prays that this pointless slaughter will awaken consciences, lead to a change of heart, and inspire all parties to lay down their arms and take up the path of dialogue", Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin said.

"He sends the assurance of his prayers for the dead and his spiritual closeness to their families and to all affected from this act of senseless and diabolical violence."

The care home looks after some 80 elderly people

Breakfast was being served when the attack occurred

Missionaries of Charity spokeswoman Sunita Kumar said members were "absolutely stunned" by the killings.

The nun in charge managed to hide and escaped unharmed.

Yemen is engulfed in a brutal civil war between Iran-backed Zaidi Shia Houthi rebels in the north and the Saudi-Arabia backed government in the south.

Islamic State and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have both taken advantage of the war to gain ground in the country. More than 6,000 people have been killed and 2.4 million people displaced in Yemen's war, the UN says.

Forces loyal to the government and southern militias regained control of Aden in July, aided by Saudi-led coalition air strikes and troops.

Sydney priest slams Cardinal George Pell in damning radio interview (Australia)
March 4, 2016

A SYDNEY priest of 30 years has slammed Cardinal George Pell’s “appalling” performance while facing the royal commission in to child sex abuse in a damning radio interview.

Father Michael Kelly, a well-known Jesuit priest, took to the ABC airwaves to say what he really thought about the Australian cardinal who he has known for more than 30 years.

“He’s one of the best developed narcissists I’ve ever met in my life,” he told interviewer Wendy Harmer.

“He’s astonishing at the way in which he can deploy his insensitivity; he seems just impervious to human experience.”

The Catholic priest, who conceded at one point he was sacked by Pell, was very critical of Pell’s four days on the stand at the commission, where he gave evidence and was interrogated over his knowledge of systemic sex abuse within the church. But Father Kelly said he wasn’t surprised.

“I think I share the dismay and disgust of a great many people, Catholic and others, with the Cardinal’s display, and the interesting thing about it of course is it’s just made plain to the world who he is and what he’s like. This is something of international reach, but I must say I’m not surprised,” he said.

“He’s a bully. He’s just a bully. He gets exactly what he wants by standing over people, and as one priest in Melbourne said to me recently, he has lived by the sword, he’s going to die by the sword.”

Father Kelly said he agreed with the suggestion of the senior counsel assisting the commission, Gail Furness, that much of Pell’s testimony around his lack of knowledge of abuse and paedophilia within the church was “implausible”.

“He can feign a collapsed memory he can say what he likes,” he said.

“This sort of stuff has been talked about among the clergy throughout the country … it was clearly well known and much discussed in clerical circles, and if he didn’t hear it, he must have had plugs in his ears.”

Though he was very critical of the cardinal’s performance on the stand, Father Kelly said he did see positives in the events in Rome of the past few days.

“(The Vatican) can’t avoid it. The bottom line is, George Pell is global news. He’s a big man and he’s a big bully and he’s got a lot of people off side all around the place. This particular appalling sequence of interviews and discussions with the royal commission is global news,” he said.

The priest also used his airtime to praise Australian survivors of sex abuse at the hands of Catholic priests who had travelled to Rome to witness Pell’s testimony and meet with the Vatican’s third-in-charge.

“I think they’ve conducted themselves very responsibly. The question I’d ask is what’s the point in talking to Pell,” he said. The group of survivors, led by Ballarat man David Ridsdale, has since met with the cardinal.

In a prepared statement, Pell told reporters he had heard about a dozen Ballarat survivors’ stories. “It was hard,” he said.

One parent of victims is Anthony Foster, whose daughters were abused by a Catholic priest, leading to having killed herself and the other being seriously disabled. He said he was not satisfied with the meeting.

“We got somewhere. I think there’ll be some pretty damning findings about what George Pell did, but there’s still a long way to go. George Pell was the auxiliary bishop in our area, looking after the priests who did that to my girls,” he said.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

We learned about Cardinal George Pell's pain, but what about the children?

David Marr
The Guardian
March 3, 2016

Four days’ evidence of knowing nothing, doing nothing, was punctuated with expressions of sympathy, but the rhetoric seemed cut from cardboard

Pity poor George Pell. He was such a sensitive young priest that even reading about child abuse caused him pain. He did it as little as he could.

“I have never enjoyed reading the accounts of these sufferings,” he confessed on Thursday. “I tried to do that only when it was professionally absolutely appropriate because the behaviour is abhorrent and painful to read about.”

Pell’s pain …

That he said this to a roomful of survivors gathered in the Albergo Quirinale in Rome defies belief. And just as incredible is the fact that Pell offered this line to clarify his earlier “very poor” words about paedophilia in Ballarat being a “sad story” that didn’t interest him much.

Was there no one to tell the cardinal what a terrible idea it was to appeal for sympathy in the face of such pain? Where were his advisers? Are they the same crew that let him argue last year that paedophile priests and their victims are like truck drivers and hitchhikers?

Character is the great subject of cross-examination. Pell has emerged from four days harshly exposed. There is so much missing.

George Pell: They didn't tell me because they were worried I might ask difficult questions

While the rape and torture of hundreds of children swirled around him, a monstrous wailing storm of blood and terror and unimaginable sin ... Pell heard nothing

He was wary and had to be. He was rehearsed and that’s no surprise. He told the little press conference on the steps of the hotel when the interrogation was all over that the most difficult moment for him in the last few days was doing his homework: “Reading the transcripts of the way the victims suffered.”

Pell’s pain …

Day after day he punctuated his evidence of knowing nothing about Ridsdale and doing nothing about Searson with expressions of sympathy for the victims of these apparently licensed paedophiles.

But there was no poetry in the man. His rhetoric seemed cut from cardboard.

Pell’s supporters say he has a good heart but is clumsy with words. That’s hard to credit after watching him for days in the witness box. He knows how to work the language. And in any case, what would be more convincing, more moving, than awkward words delivered from the heart?

He’s heartfelt when the subject is history. At these moments, Pell beamed as he swept the commissioner into the past: “The church has been going for a couple of thousand years and our patterns of organisation predate modern corporations and, as a matter of fact, are a bit similar to the patterns of organisation of the Roman Empire …”

His evidence reveals a man who has thought deeply for years about his reasons for doing so little when it counted. He was deceived of course. Then there was the pain of reading stories of abuse. But there was more, which he has worked up over time into a little philosophy of inaction.

So the commissioners heard Pell’s principles of permissible ignorance and the subtle degrees of rumour: “Some are inherently unlikely. Some are of an indeterminate nature. Some are plausible.”

Yet Pell acted on none of them. He didn’t ask. He didn’t dig through the files. He never investigated for himself. He left these ugly problems to the responsible authorities. He passed them up the line. So a priest who pulled a knife on a little girl was left in his parish because the archbishop said nothing could be done.

At times Pell seemed to be heading towards a confession, one he could never make. The sin the cardinal had to get off his chest makes sense of his life and career: it’s the sin of obedience.

“I did what I was asked,” he said, “and was happy at that time to do just that.”

Where was alarm? He was always so cool. Was this career priest ever urgently worried about the fate of these children? Where is the evidence of his human sympathies?

Time and again he claimed not to be “plugged in” to the life of the diocese of Ballarat, though he lived and worked at the very heart of the diocese. But where’s the evidence this career priest is plugged into life?

Pell is tough. He emerged from the Quirinale with a friendly and rather weary smile. “I’m a bit tired,” he told the waiting journalists. He has high hopes for the royal commission and for his own testimony: “I hope that my appearance here has contributed a bit to healing, to improving the situation.”

In Sydney the lawyers packed their bags and the survivors hugged one another.

Over the years they’ve become an oddly functional family: here is the boy who warned Pell in the dressing room, the headmaster sacked for trying to get rid of Searson, the child Ridsdale raped while his church looked the other way.

They hope Pell is finished. They’ll be back for the commission’s verdict sometime in winter. And of course Rome will have to make up its mind.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Vatican newspaper essays suggest women should preach at Mass

David Gibson
Religion News Service
March 2, 2016

A series of essays in the semi-official Vatican newspaper is urging the Catholic Church to allow women to preach from the pulpit at Mass, a role has been reserved almost exclusively to the all-male priesthood for nearly 800 years.

"This topic is a delicate one, but I believe it is urgent that we address it," Enzo Bianchi, leader of an ecumenical religious community in northern Italy and a popular Catholic commentator, wrote in his article in L'Osservatore Romano.

"Certainly for faithful lay people in general, but above all for women, this would constitute a fundamental change in their participation in church life," said Bianchi, who called such a reform a "decisive path" for responding to widespread calls -- including by Pope Francis -- to find ways to give women a greater role in the church.

Two nuns also contributed articles in the March 1 special section that is part of a new L'Osservatore Romano series on women called "Women-Church-World."

In her column, Sr. Catherine Aubin, a French Dominican who teaches theology at a pontifical university in Rome, noted that Jesus encouraged women to preach his message of salvation, and she said that throughout church history there have been many extraordinary women evangelists. Women today also lead retreats and in effect preach in other ways, she argued.

"Let us sincerely pose a question then," Aubin writes. "Why can't women also preach in front of everyone during the celebration of Mass?"

Another Dominican, nun, Sr. Madeleine Fredell of Sweden, wrote that preaching "is my vocation as a Dominican, and although I can do it almost anywhere, sometimes even in the Lutheran church, I believe that listening to the voice of women at the time of the homily would enrich our Catholic worship."

If it happened, such a change would be a controversial shift.

In the early thirteenth century, as part of the movement toward consolidating church power in the papacy and the clergy, Pope Gregory IX effectively barred lay people -- both non-ordained men and women -- from preaching, especially on theological or doctrinal matters that were considered the province of educated clerics.

While occasional exceptions were allowed, it wasn't until the early 1970s that there were hints of a reconsideration of the ban, spurred by the growing calls for women -- and all lay people -- to assume greater roles and responsibilities in the church. In his article, Bianchi noted that in 1973 the Vatican gave the German bishops permission to allow lay people, most of them women, to preach with special permission for an experimental eight-year period.

But the election of Saint John Paul II, a doctrinally conservative pope, in 1978 launched a period of stricter bans.

The revised Code of Canon Law that John Paul promulgated in 1983 stated that the homily "is reserved to a priest or deacon" because it is an integral part of the Mass and must be done by an ordained male acting in the role of Christ.

Then in 1997 a Vatican document backed by eight different offices in the Roman Curia sought to further reinforce the proscription against lay preaching; it also warned bishops that they could not allow any exceptions.

Yet at the same time as the Vatican was bolstering the distinction between the laity and ordained clerics, lay people -- many of them women -- were playing a more visible role at Mass as lectors and Eucharistic ministers. Girls were also allowed to be altar servers, a practice that has become widespread.

Those changes have led a number of conservatives to decry the "feminization" of the Catholic Church, and any serious proposals to allow women to preach would certainly heighten their anxiety.

The argument for a change is not that it is "modernizing" the church but rather it is returning to the tradition of the first thousand years of Christianity, when, as Bianchi and the other essayists note, women were regularly given permission to preach, and often did so in front of priests bishops and even the pope.

Mary Magdalene, in fact, was known as the "apostle to the apostles" because the Gospels recount how Jesus appeared to her first on Easter morning, and sent her to deliver the news of the resurrection -- the foundational Christian belief -- to Jesus' male followers.

So what will Francis do?

The pontiff has repeatedly called for women to have a greater role in the church, but he has also reiterated the ban against ordaining women as priest and he has warned against "clericalizing" women by trying to make them cardinals or to focus on promoting them to higher church officers.

Then again, that the Vatican's own newspaper would dedicate so much space to the issue of women preachers is intriguing, said Massimo Faggioli, a church historian at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

"I think it is a big signal," he said.

The purge is taking too long: in Altoona a grand jury indicts the charter

Rocco Palmo
Whispers in the Loggia
March 2, 2016

All of 36 hours after the breaking of abuse and coverup in Boston won the Oscar for Best Picture – and as the Vatican's all-powerful CFO, Cardinal George Pell, testifies from Rome to a national inquiry probing the church's response in his native Australia – Catholicism's long, horrid road of scandal has erupted anew in the US, in a development likely to invite fresh scrutiny across the map.

In a blistering 147-page report released this morning, a two-year long Pennsylvania grand jury detailed a sweeping investigation of allegations and neglect over four decades in the diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, which covers eight counties in the state's central-southern tier. Among other findings, the panel disclosed evidence of the abuse of "hundreds" of minors by "at least 50 priests" during the cited period, alleging that, even into recent times, multiple clerics with known allegations remained in some form of public ministry for years after the Dallas Charter's zero-tolerance provisions became church law – including one as recently as October 2015 – while the largely rural, 95,000-member diocese's previous two bishops "wrote their legacy in the tears of children" over years of willingness to squelch public knowledge or consequences on the reported crimes.

Citing the deaths of alleged abusers, expired statutes of limitations on the living and instances of "deeply traumatized victims being unable to testify in a court of law," no charges could be filed, but Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane stressed that the investigation remains ongoing. Even now, however, today's filing asserts that "the grand jury is concerned the purge of predators is taking too long," likewise seeing fit to blast the diocese's "Allegation Review Board" – normally known as a "Lay Review Board," the diocesan body mandated by the Charter – as ineffective, terming its mandate only "as real as any bishop may want it to be" and adding that the group's practices reflect a mission of "fact-finding for litigation, not a victim-service function." (Emphasis original.)

Built upon a catalogue of the allegations against 34 diocesan priests – a trove collected from testimony and a 2015 state raid of the diocese's personnel files – beyond the graphic accounts of assaults committed by men the report repeatedly terms "monsters," the grand jury depicts the late Bishop James Hogan (who led the diocese from 1966-86) and his now-retired successor, Bishop Joseph Adamec (1986-2010), as brazenly driven to avert civil accountability when reports of clerical misconduct would arise.

Under Hogan (who died in 2005), one of the diocese's senior priests testified that "[he] would pick" appointees for leading posts in local government – including the principal judge and a police chief in the diocese's twin hubs – who, in turn, would discreetly refer any allegations they received to the Chancery for its handling, including one case where diocesan officials intercepted knowledge of a recording device intended to collect evidence on an accused priest. In every cited case, the allegations were left for the church to quietly resolve through its own means. (Said by another witness to have been so influential as to make local politicians "afraid" in his dual roles as cathedral rector and editor of the diocesan newspaper, said testifying cleric, Msgr Phillip Saylor, was reportedly the target of an attempt by the diocese to block his appearance on the stand in a 2002 case.)

For Adamec's part, meanwhile, an anonymous victim – himself a priest – recounted to the grand jury that, when he moved to file his own abuse suit dating to his high school days during the crisis' national outbreak, he was summoned to a meeting with the bishop, at which an official read out "the penalties for suing the diocese... up to and including excommunication."

"I think [Adamec] just did it to scare the crap out of me," the witness said, "so that I would drop it all. But I was under the impression that I was excommunicated and I was sitting in the chair in shock."

According to the findings, that priest-witness "was accused in 2003 of improper contact with a child himself and" – a year after the promulgation of the Dallas Norms as particular law in the United States – "transferred to another parish." While the cited misconduct went unspecified, "he is currently suspended."

Upon Adamec's own appearance before the grand jury last November, he was initially asked if he was "now or ever have been a bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown?"

As the bishop began to respond, "Yes, I –", the report says Adamec's lawyer intervened, at which point the prelate "exercised his right to refuse to answer questions on the grounds of incriminating himself."

No further testimony is recorded.
In conclusion, the report states the grand jury's finding that "both Bishops Hogan and Adamec endangered the public."

(Albeit from behind, Adamec is seen above in an undated photo with Altoona-Johnstown's most prominent Catholic since Gallitzin: the legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, whose own pristine reputation irrevocably collapsed after a 2011 state grand jury uncovered gross negligence by the university's academic and athletic brass in response to the serial abuse of young boys by Paterno's defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, who went on to be jailed for a minimum 60 years after his 2012 conviction on 45 of 48 counts. Located in the diocese's largest population center, Penn State's Catholic ministry center bears the Paterno name given the coach's generosity to it over his 45-year tenure.)

As of press time, a response has yet to emerge from the diocese's current head, Bishop Mark Bartchak – a former president of the Canon Law Society of America, who was named to Altoona-Johnstown on Adamec's 2010 retirement.

Amid a narrative that prosecutors sometimes needlessly sought to dramatize at the expense of its shattering content, while today's report sought to "commend" Bartchak for his "positive steps" in suspending four priests with allegations that turned up in the probe, the panel starkly noted that only in September 2015 did the bishop replace the vicar-general he inherited from his predecessor, Msgr Michael Servinsky, who held the diocese's second-in-command post since 1992.

"Given the opportunity to explain his role to the grand jury" in December as today's report put it, like his longtime boss, Servinsky "elected to exercise his right against providing testimony which may be incriminating."

Incendiary as the filing is, its guiding champion is facing significant legal issues of her own – her law license suspended and awaiting her own trial on charges of leaking grand jury information to the press to undermine internal enemies, Attorney General Kane announced last month that she wouldn't seek reëlection for a second term, days after barely surviving a motion for her removal from office in the Pennsylvania Senate.

While the grand jury's report closes with just the latest call for the legislature to pass a "window" law suspending the civil statute of limitations to allow lawsuits to proceed, given the fallout of the Sandusky case and the institution that covered up the coach's abuse, any push to that end would hit an iron wall against the clout of Pennsylvania's most influential fold: the Penn State faithful, who long ago replaced Catholics as the Commonwealth's most numerous and fervent religious body – a reality exponentially reflected in Harrisburg.

SVILUPPO: Just before 6pm local time, the Altoona-Johnstown Chancery in Hollisdaysburg released the following as a "media advisory":

The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown has received the report issued today by the Thirty-Seventh Statewide Investigating Grand Jury. As noted in the report, the Diocese cooperated fully with authorities throughout the investigation, and will continue to do so as part of our commitment to the safety of all children. At this time, the Diocese is reviewing the report.

The Diocese’s youth protection policy, which calls for mandatory reporting of all abuse allegations to civil authorities as well as criminal background checks and education for clergy, employees, and volunteers who work with children, may be found at Suspected child abuse should be reported directly to civil authorities. The Diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator, Jean Johnstone, may be contacted at (814) 944-9388 for additional support.

“This is a painful and difficult time in our Diocesan Church,” said the Most Rev. Mark L. Bartchak, Bishop of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. “I deeply regret any harm that has come to children, and I urge the faithful to join me in praying for all victims of abuse.”

In light of the gravity of the findings, a statement from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops is expected to emerge shortly. (10pm ET: Until, apparently, it wasn't.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Before Spotlight - some background memories

Thomas P. Doyle
Abuse Tracker
March 1, 2016

I have learned over the past 32 years to be skeptical about much that surrounds the constant reality of clergy sex abuse. Much of my skepticism is rooted in the non-stop statements of bishops and popes. Its been mostly hot, foul air created by P.R. consultants and clever writers that bears resemblance to the truth only by default.

I have been overjoyed and grateful that “Spotlight” has been receiving accolades since it came out and was even more so when it was nominated for best picture but I admit that my skepticism got the best of me and I was preparing to be disappointed right up to the moment Morgan Freeman opened the envelope. Then…Whammo! When the “stun” wore off and I realized what had just happened I knew that this crusade so many people have been involved with for over a quarter of a century had just been raised to a whole new level.

My involvement goes way back, eighteen years before the volcanic eruption in Boston on January 6, 2002. I thought of what went on in those intervening years and of all the survivors, attorneys, journalists and supporters who drudged along, many like myself, wondering when or even if the issue of clergy sex abuse would ever get the recognition and attention it demanded. We were up against the institutional Catholic Church. The largest religion in the world and also by no strange coincidence, the largest corporation. It often seemed like we were trying to move Mt. Everest with a bulldozer, and a small one at that.

I thought of Bernard Cardinal Law, thrust into center stage as the arch-villain, overseeing a crew of mini-villains who had been trying to contain the plague that burst forth that Sunday morning.

I was surprised, angered, hurt and bewildered by Bernard Law’s increasingly bizarre responses to the crisis he was unsuccessfully trying to control. Why this cold, bureaucratic reaction? Because eighteen years earlier when the horror of sexual abuse by clerics surfaced in Lafayette Louisiana, Bernard Law was clearly part of the solution.

I was working at the Vatican Embassy at the time and was still a firm believer in the institutional Church and a naïve believer that once the bishops realized the real nature of this nightmare, they would go into high gear and do the right thing… a group and as individuals. I was dead wrong on both! My job with regard to the Gauthe case from Lafayette was simply to manage the file. I prepared letters for the nuncio’s signature and kept him up to date with information. What had started as a series of confidentiality agreements with nine families in exchange for monetary payments -- hush money -- ended up to be the event that blew the lid off the widespread cover up of clergy sex abuse that had existed for decades. One family pulled out of the agreement and sued the diocese. Once that started the District attorney filed criminal charges since the abuse was within statute. That’s when things really changed. The media got ahold of the story and in spite of the Church’s efforts, the lid was off and it was staying off.

The Vicar General of Lafayette was the man I always communicated with. I’d ask for the bishop and get the VG. I finally gave up and worked with that. He told me they had sent Gauthe to the House of Affirmation which was a useless endeavor. I connected the good monsignor with Fr. Mike Peterson, a psychiatrist who had founded and ran St. Luke Institute. Without getting into too much detail, Mike put me in touch with Ray Mouton, the attorney the diocese was paying to defend Gauthe on the criminal charges. Ray it turned out, was a brilliant lawyer, a Cajun who knew the territory down there but above all a man with principles…and three children. He came to Washington and told me the diocese was hiding about 6 other sex abusers.

As soon as the Gauthe case became public reports of sexual abuse in other areas started to surface. A major case was developing in the Providence R.I. diocese at the time.

My job at the embassy brought me into regular contact with bishops. They all knew what was going on and they were especially shaken by the widespread publicity. One bishop, Dick Keating from Arlington, remarked one day that any time three or four bishops get together the topic of conversation inevitably ends up being clergy abuse. Newsweek published a picture of Gauthe in his jail cell! In my conversations with bishops it became clear many were honestly worried about what to do. What I did NOT know at the time is that there were also more than a few who were worried that the strategy they had been using might blow up in their faces. The common game plan was to admonish the priest and then send him to another parish where generally the same problem would start up again.

Ray, Michael and I decided to put together a memo or “White Paper” for the bishops in an effort to help them deal with cases as they encountered them. Actually this was the result of a suggestion I received from one of the bishops. I presented the idea to several moree bishops whom I considered friends and in whom I had trust. They all agreed it was a great idea and offered to help.

My main source of support and the man I went to for guidance more than anyone else was Bernard Cardinal Law. I had met him when I first went to work at the nunciature. He was bishop of Springfield, MO at the time. He was intelligent, personable, down to earth and not at all pompous. He and I hit it off from the start. When we discussed the sex abuse issue, which was fairly often, he recognized the urgency and the need to do something. The other three prelates I relied on for support and guidance were Anthony Bevilacqua who was bishop of Pittsburgh at the time, Cardinal John Krol and Bishop Dick Keating from Arlington.

Ray, Mike and I were conferring daily on what later became known as the “Manual.” We ran every section by the nuncio, Archbishop Laghi, and the four bishops. Law was archbishop of Boston by then but not a cardinal. We were also conferring about the on-going drama in the Lafayette diocese so that I could continue to keep my boss, the Archbishop, abreast of the almost daily developments.

In addition to the manual which was divided into sections and set up in a Q & A format, we also put together an action proposal called a “Crisis Intervention Team.” The idea was to have psychologists, attorneys, experts in insurance and media issues and pastoral care specialists available around the country. If a bishop had a report of sexual abuse by a priest he could immediately call the coordinating office for the intervention program which would be at the bishops’ conference headquarters in Washington and that office could put him together with volunteer experts from his geographic area. The very first move was to reach out to the victim and the victim’s family for pastoral care purposes. We wanted to isolate the abuse and the abuser from the “church” and let the people know that the “church” was concerned first and foremost about them and would do anything to help them. In other words, we wanted the victims and their families to know they they were the Church. I recall in one of our discussions we were trying to figure out who would be the best person to make the initial outreach to the family. We unanimously agreed it was NOT to be a cleric of any kind. The bishop was to be a key player in this stage but his presence to the victims would depend on their level of comfort.

This strategy was to be available to bishops but not in any way mandatory contrary to the misrepresentations of the Conference spokespersons at the time.

We also planned on a special research committee to work with the bishops. It would have bishop-members but also a team of experts who would provide the very best state-of-the-art information on every aspect of sexual abuse from the causes for the abuser’s behavior and how to handle him to the effects on the victims and how best to help them.

Cardinal Law was solidly behind the plan and promised to gather support from among the bishops. Likewise, Cardinal Krol and Bishops Bevilacqua and Keating also were solidly behind it. I recall a meeting Mike Peterson and I had with Cardinal Krol at the National Shrine. I had sent him a draft of our “manual.” After we sat down and chatted a bit it was time to get down to business. He pulled the manuscript out of his briefcase and held it up and said “If I had asked a bunch of experts to come up with the best possible plan on this problem, this is exactly what I would expect.”

By then it was clear that the leadership of the bishops’ conference was not supportive of any of our efforts. We had sent copies of the manual over to the USCCB but they told the media there was nothing in it they did not already know. This included, I suspect, our prediction that unless something drastic was done and done soon the lawsuits would multiply and it would cost the U.S. Church one billion dollars in ten years.

Sidebar: I recall an archbishop telling me around that time that I should not get too excited about this problem because “nobody is going to sue the Catholic Church.”

Cardinal Law knew about the opposition from the Bishops’ Conference. It was not “the bishops” in general who were stone-walling, but the key players in the conference leadership. I always maintained that had there been some strong leaders from the body of bishops who were more concerned about the victims than their image the whole history would have been different.

Ray, Mike and I had planned to meet with then Archbishop Law in May 1985 at a Marriott hotel near Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. The purpose was to iron out details with the manual and the action plan. Law was the chairman of the bishops standing committee on Research and Pastoral Practices (I think I recall the name correctly). His plan was to set up a sub committee off the standing committee and that would be the one that handled the sex abuse issue. Law had just been named a cardinal in May and had to bow out of the meeting at the last minute but sent Bishop William Levada, the committee secretary, in his place. Levada showed up and the four of us had a very cordial and productive session. He was positive about the proposed plan, the proposed budget and the content of the manual. By the time he left that evening we were confident that there would be real action on the part of the bishops.

A couple weeks later I was in Montreal visiting my sister and received a phone call from Bishop Levada. The conversation was short. He told me the plan was shelved. I was stunned and asked why and was told that another committee had been appointed to take care of it and it would not look good if we appeared to be at cross-purposes with them. I was too flabbergasted to argue or debate. I couldn’t get ahold of Law or Krol to find out what had happened. A few days later I managed to connect with Bishop Bevilacqua and poured out my frustration on him.

In the meantime, the three of us regrouped. We had a couple hundred copies of the manual printed and took about a dozen to Bishop Quinn in Cleveland and asked him to take them to the planned meeting of all the bishops at Collegeville in June 1985 and try to lobby our plan with them. He agreed but we never found out whether he got anywhere or not or if he even did anything. The collected bishops had a one-day executive session about clergy abuse at which their General Counsel, the auxiliary bishop of providence and a psychologist from Chicago gave presentations. Mike Peterson, Ray Mouton and I were not only not invited and knew very little about the proposed agenda. We were intentionally excluded!

After it was over I spoke with several prelates including Cardinal Krol, Bishop Bevilacqua and Archbishop Laghi. Laghi asked why Peterson and I were not there. Krol and Bevilacqua both said the only worthwhile speech was that given by the psychologist and both said the other two speakers were useless.

By mid-spring I started to really comprehend what was going on. I had noticed at the Nunciature that other than Archbishop Laghi, no one else seemed to be too interested in the Gauthe case or in the other reports that were coming in. A couple of the priests on staff told me that we don’t air our dirty laundry in public, an obvious warning which I picked up at the time. The archbishop had a weekly meeting with the secretary general of the bishops’ conference and he shared with me one day that whenever he brought up the topic the sec-general was either disinterested or irritated.

The bishops’ conference leadership were actively trying to find a way to effectively spin the sex abuse problem into oblivion. I knew there was a resentment towards me and definitely a resentment towards Ray Mouton. They didn’t mess much with Mike Peterson because as director of St. Luke’s he knew where a lot of the skeletons were hidden. They were engaging in a cover up….THE cover-up. Bishop Bevilacqua told me that contrary to what Levada had told me and contrary to a press release from the Bishops’ Conference there was no other committee. Nothing was going to happen.

Ray, Mike and I weren’t sure where to go now that it was obvious the Bishops’ Conference had shut the door. A number of the bishops who recognized the seriousness of the problem engaged us to give seminars and workshops to their priests. We also received some requests from provincials of religious communities.

The Bishops’ Conference issued a few statements about sexual abuse of minors starting in 1988 and some were quite good but everything was voluntary and nothing they said or did made the slightest difference. If they had made a difference its doubtful there would have been the flood of lawsuits that was on the way. They told the public that they could not act on our proposals because every bishop is independent. They referred to the Crisis Intervention Team as a “Swat Team” which, besides being incorrect was also ludicrous. They also announced publicly through the office of their General Counsel that the whole plan was a scheme on our part…..Ray, Mike and I….to sell our program to the bishops and profit from the growing problem. Besides being a completely libelous assertion it also told us that they were threatened, so much so that they had to resort to slandering the very people who were trying to help them. In their case the truth didn’t make them free. It made them mentally constipated.

Cardinal Law and I spoke a few times about the turn of events and he assured me it was beyond his control which I believed then and still believe. Law was on the opposite end of the political spectrum from the Conference leadership at the time. He was also a newly minted cardinal and caught up with all the celebrations at home in Boston. January 1986 came and I left the Nunciature. Mike Peterson, Ray and I continued to collaborate on trying to find newer and better ways to cope with the sex abuse plague which by then was noticeably gaining ground. We were on our own. Several bishops were genuinely interested but the National Bishops’ Conference could have cared less in spite of their PR statements to the contrary.

In December 1985 we sent every bishop in the US a personal copy of the Manual which included copies of several articles chosen by Mike Peterson that explained much about the sexual disorder that compelled men to violate children. Cardinal Law had sent us a check to help cover the costs of putting together the final version and sending out the copies.

In November Mike went to Rome to talk to some people in the Vatican about the problem and returned after a week very dejected and discouraged. The people whom he saw, and all were mid-level flunkies, did not take it seriously and blamed our U.S culture. It was our problem and we had to deal with it.

Not long after he returned the bishops had their annual meeting in D.C. Michael rented a suite for a hospitality event to which he invited all the bishops to come and discuss the problem of clerics sexually violating minors. Out of about 300 bishops present, twelve showed up.

My relationship with Cardinal Law drifted into the mist as I expected it would for no other reason than the vast differences in our stations and what he told me were the crushing demands of being the archbishop of Boston. He invited me to Boston to spend a weekend with him which was very enjoyable but included no substantial discussion of clergy sex abuse. We continued to drift apart save for annual Christmas and Easter greetings.

By 1986 I was in the Air Force but I continued to be increasingly involved in the sexual abuse issue and my involvement I am proud to say, was totally supported by my Air Force superiors.

By March of 2001 I knew something was cooking in Boston. Kristen Lombardi, a very bright young journalist it turned out, contacted me and asked for help with a series she was writing about the cover-up of Fr. John Geoghan by the Boston Church establishment, especially Cardinal Law. By then I was beyond being shocked, but what I learned about this horrific debacle and Bernard Law’s complicity made me very, very sad. I can say the same about Cardinal Bevilacqua whom I had known longer and much better than Bernard Law. When I saw how he was dealing with sex abuse victims in Philadelphia my emotional response was that he had turned into some kind of red robed monster and was certainly not the man I had admired and trusted.

The next step after Kristen Lombardi’s series in the Boston Phoenix was the Globe. The Spotlight Team connected with Dick Sipe because of his book, Sex, Priests and Power, and he in turn put them on to me. The Phoenix was small and had no clout or power. The Boston Globe was another story altogether. Marty Baron had the prophetic insight to zero right in on the core of the problem…..the system, and he had a team of highly dedicated, competent reporters. I was concerned that the Boston Catholic establishment would stonewall the reporters and put pressure on the Globe’s management to back off. The people at the Globe still remembered when Cardinal Law called down the power of God on the Globe because they covered the Fr. Porter mess in Fall River.

As it turned out the divine salvo that Cardinal Law had ordered came alright but the target was the Church and not the Globe.

I had a head’s up that the story was coming out on January 6 and I anticipated something big. But I was overwhelmed by what I read. At the same time my cynicism told me that there would be a major flurry of attention for two weeks or maybe even a month and then all would quiet down and we’d be back in the doldrums. After all there had already been major media coverage of a couple other explosions, e.g., the Rudy Kos trial in Dallas and the exposure of widespread sex abuse of minor seminarians at a Capuchin seminary in Wisconsin and a Franciscan seminary in Santa Barbara. None were powerful enough to make a lasting difference. But I was dead wrong about Boston and for that I will be forever grateful to the Higher Power. “Spotlight” unleashed a process that would change the Church in the U.S. and in the world.

I have often thought of my relationship with Bernard Law and Tony Bevilacqua and wondered. I think in the end the three of us changed. I lost my naiveté about what I was seeing in the governing dimension of the Church and with my naiveté I lost the emotional security that came from being a part of that system. I knew I could survive without it. I can’t speak for what happened to them but I grieve at what the institutional church and the monarchical clerical culture did to all three of us. It had captivated me for awhile but seeing the sexual abuse nightmare up close and personal blew my trust in the clerical world and the hierarchical government to smithereens. I think it had the opposite effect on Bernard Law. He was so deeply entrenched that he absolutely identified “Church” with hierarchy and faith with power. I think though that the single most important factor in my life was meeting the victims and their families. I will be forever haunted by the stories of unimaginable sexual violation. But the most gut-wrenching and soul-jarring moments were those shared with mothers and fathers, listening as they described what it was like to learn that their little boy or little girl had been sexually violated and if that was not horrific enough, by a priest.

I know Tony Bevilacqua never met with victims. He told a grand jury that it would not be an economic use of his time. Bernard Law met with a few but by then it was way too late. A polite encounter at the archiepiscopal mansion doesn’t count for truly meeting the victims on a level playing field. Maybe if Bernard Law had really gotten to know the victims and their families he might have might have come to see the presence of Christ in them instead of in the archdiocesan bureaucracy.

Tom Doyle is a priest, canon lawyer, addictions therapist and long-time supporter of justice and compassion for clergy sex abuse victims.