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CNA - Daily News

US:    Angry, betrayed Catholics travel to Baltimore demanding answers, change

Baltimore, Md., Nov 14, 2018 / 12:42 pm (CNA).- As one of the testimonies progressed at the Silence Stops Now rally near the USCCB’s Fall General Assembly, Anna Ahlbin, an expectant mother of six who had traveled from Fredericksburg, Va., turned to her young children and instructed them to cover their ears.

While she thought it was important to bring her family to a rally demanding change, reform, and accountability for the Church’s bishops, she still wanted to do as much as she could to prevent her children from hearing graphic details of abuse.

Ahlbin told CNA that she felt “a deep sense of betrayal and confusion” by the bishops, a stark departure from her past views on the episcopacy.

“I used to be the type of person who thought, you know, I looked for the nihil obstat and I knew it was fine, and I just trusted, immediately,” she said.

“And now it's, 'Who can I trust? Who's the good guys, who's the bad guys? Who's lying to me and who isn't?’”

Ahlbin and her children were part of a crowd of about 200 who gathered at the rally, which was sponsored by numerous organizations who are unhappy with the way the U.S. Bishops’ Conference has handled reports of sexual abuse. A variety of speakers provided testimony at the rally, including an alleged victim of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick’s abuse.

Demonstrators CNA spoke to traveled from all over the country to attend various protests, including one woman who said she and her husband were visiting Baltimore from California to express their disappointment with the bishops.

The Silence Stops Now rally was the biggest gathering by far, but it was not the only demonstration. Throughout the three days of the USCCB’s Fall General Assembly, there have been pockets of protestors gathering, angry at the conference of bishops. While the groups they represent, the specific concerns, and the proposed solutions have varied, their feelings of anger, hurt, and confusion were consistent.

A group of Georgetown University students, all of whom are active in Catholic campus ministry, spoke to CNA about their concerns that the Church was not doing enough to stand with survivors of abuse and to punish the perpetrators. They also expressed disappointment at their own school refusing to rescind honorary degrees to McCarrick and Cardinal Donald Wuerl, whose resignation as Archbishop of Washington was recently accepted by the pope.

Grace Laria, a senior at Georgetown, told CNA that her group drove up from D.C. that morning “to show that Georgetown students really care about the Catholic Church and issues that confront it, particularly the sexual abuse crisis.”

Laria said that while there had been numerous events on campus regarding the abuse crisis, she wanted to travel to Baltimore to continue to demand some sort of action, even informal, that demonstrates the bishops “are willing to stand up for survivors and take action."

Her concerns were echoed by fellow Georgetown student Julie Bevilacqua, who said the crisis made her feel angry and hurt.

“I just really feel a sense of urgency for some kind of action and for us to see some change to show...that our Church is willing to stand up for survivors and to stand with them," Bevilacqua told CNA. She said that she hopes young people, women, and lay leaders like herself will be given a bigger platform in the Church in the future.

Although most of those demonstrating outside the assembly were critical of the bishops, the USCCB, and Church hierarchy as a whole, there was one notable exception to these feelings: Archbishop Carlo Vigano, the former apostolic nuncio to the United States.

In August, Vigano released an explosive letter that claimed, among other things, that Pope Francis had stripped penalties imposed on Archbishop McCarrick by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. During the general assembly, many bishops publicly expressed displeasure at the Vatican’s perceived stalling of any investigation into the claims made in the letter.

At the Silence Stops Now rally, a mere mention of Vigano’s name drew wild applause, and at one point, those assembled chanted his name in a manner that was not unlike a political campaign rally. Conversely, the mention of just about any other bishop sparked a chorus of boos.

A six-foot-tall poster displayed outside the hotel on Wednesday was even less subtle: a picture of Vigano, captioned “Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, OUR HERO!! Thank you!”

That poster was positioned next to an image of Our Lady of Fatima, and another featuring a collage of American cardinals, accusing them of being complicit with Satan.

Connie McCalla, who traveled to Baltimore from Philadelphia, said that while she found the message at the Silence Stops Now rally to be a bit “mixed,” she was there to demand accountability among bishops.

A bishop needs to be transparent and remember “that they are to lead the Church and to protect the body of Christ," said McCalla. The bishops “need to be heard and not behind stone and glass," she said, pointing to the hotel where the assembly was being held.

Throughout the weekend, the majority of the demonstrators CNA spoke to had optimistic views on the future of the Church, despite the current controversies and difficulties.

Ahlbin told CNA that although she thinks the Church must “repent, submit to grace, and allow it to stop being about policy,” returning to a focus on God and the Holy Spirit, she’s “confident that the Immaculate Heart of Mary will triumph.”


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Americas:    Saskatchewan suit says indigenous women were forced into sterilization

Regina, Canada, Nov 14, 2018 / 11:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a class-action lawsuit in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, more than 60 indigenous women allege they were coerced into being sterilized. The incidents happened as recently as 2017.

In July 2017, a representative of the Saskatoon Health Region apologized for the forced sterilizations, saying, “I am truly sorry for the coercion for tubal ligation that you experienced while in our care.”

Alisa Lombard, a lawyer representing the indigenous women, told the CBC that “in the throes of labour ... they would be approached, harassed, coerced into signing these consent forms.” They would be told they could not leave, or see their child, until they had been sterilized.

An Ontario senator has called for a nationwide inquiry into force sterilization of indigenous peoples, as there have been reports of the practice from multiple provinces and territories.

Advocates have urged that forced sterilization be criminalized, and that Health Canada give guidance to doctors on sterilization procedures.

Jane Philpott, Minister of Indigenous Services, said that “the issue of forced sterilization of vulnerable people, including Indigenous women, is a very serious violation of human rights.”


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US:    Florist case reopens before Washington Supreme Court

Olympia, Wash., Nov 14, 2018 / 10:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Attorneys representing florist Barronelle Stutzman filed their opening brief with the Washington Supreme Court on Tuesday, as the court re-hears the case after its previous ruling was reversed.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated a previous Washington state ruling against Stutzman, who in 2013 declined to make flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding.

The U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to the Washington Supreme Court, instructing that the case be reconsidered in the light of Masterpiece Cakeshop.

In that decision, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Christian cake baker Jack Phillips, who had declined to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The Supreme Court ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission had shown an impermissible hostility toward religion in their handling of the case.

Stutzman’s attorneys have argued that a similar hostility against religion was on display in the handling of Stuzman’s case by Washington’s attorney general.

“While the attorney general failed to prosecute a business that obscenely berated and discriminated against Christian customers, he has steadfastly—and on his own initiative—pursued unprecedented measures to punish Barronelle not just in her capacity as a business owner but also in her personal capacity,” said Kristen Waggoner, senior vice president of Alliance Defending Freedom, the group defending both Phillips and Stutzman.

“In its Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling, the Supreme Court condemned that sort of one-sided, discriminatory application of the law against people of faith,” Waggoner said.

“Also, in the legal briefs that the attorney general has filed in Barronelle’s case, he has repeatedly and overtly demeaned her faith. He has compared her religious beliefs about marriage—which the Supreme Court said are ‘decent and honorable’—to racial discrimination,” Waggoner continued.

“This conflicts with the Supreme Court’s recognition in Masterpiece Cakeshop that it was ‘inappropriate’ for the government to draw parallels between those religious beliefs and ‘defenses of slavery’.”

The Washington case centers around 73-year-old Barronelle Stutzman, owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington.

In 2013, Rob Ingersoll, a long-time friend and customer of Stutzman, asked her to arrange flowers for his same-sex wedding ceremony.

Stutzman knew that Ingersoll was gay, and had always been happy to create flower arrangements for birthdays and other special occasions.

However, because she believes marriage to be a sign of the relationship between Christ and his Church, she told Ingersoll that she could not make a flower arrangement for a same-sex wedding.

Ingersoll initially said that he understood and asked her to recommend another florist. Later, however, his partner posted a message on social media about Stutzman declining to take part in the wedding, and it went viral. Soon afterward, she was informed that she was being sued by the Washington State attorney general and the ACLU.

Stutzman, who is Southern Baptist, has said that she views weddings as more than just a job. She spends months or even years getting to know the bride and groom, to understand their vision and what they want to convey.

Because her wedding arrangements are such a deeply personal labor of love, she said that she felt that she could not in good conscience design flower arrangements for a same-sex wedding.

In February 2017, the Washington Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling against Stutzman. She then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court to hear her case.

While the actual damages being sought by the gay couple are only around $7 – the mileage cost of driving to another florist – Stutzman could be responsible for more than $1 million in legal fees to nearly a dozen ACLU lawyers opposing her in the case. Her home, business, savings, and personal assets are all at risk in the case.

Over the last five years, Stutzman said she has received an outpouring of support and messages of encouragement from nearly 60 countries, but also death threats that have required her to install a security system and change her route to work.

In a statement earlier this year, Stutzman said that she serves all customers, but cannot create products for events that conflict with her deeply-held religious beliefs.

She said the Washington attorney general “has always ignored that part of my case, choosing to vilify me and my faith instead of respecting my religious beliefs about marriage.”

“When the state trial court ruled against me at the attorney general’s request, I wrote the attorney general a letter urging him ‘to drop’ the personal claims that risk stripping away ‘my home, business, and other assets’,” she said.

“He didn’t do that. For him, this case has been about making an example of me—crushing me—all because he disapproves of what I believe about marriage.”


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US:    USCCB elects six new committee chairmen

Baltimore, Md., Nov 14, 2018 / 09:42 am (CNA).- On Wednesday morning, the U.S. bishops voted on a slate of positions and committee chairs for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The votes were originally scheduled to be taken Thursday morning but moved up the schedule following a forecast for adverse weather.

On the ballot were candidates for the chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education, as well as the chairmen-elect of five other committees: Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations; Divine Worship; Domestic Justice and Human Development; Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth; and Migration.

The chairman-elect serves for one year shadowing the current chairman before assuming the role for a three-year term of office.

The bishops elected Bishop Michael Barber of Oakland to serve as chairman of the Committee on Catholic Education. Barber has previously served as the Director of the School of Pastoral Leadership in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. He will replace Bishop John Quinn. Quinn had been serving as interim-chair of the committee following the departure of Bishop George Murry, who resigned following a diagnosis of leukemia.  

Archbishop Paul Etienne was elected Chairman of the Committee on National Collections.

Bishop James Checcio of Metuchen was elected as the chairman-elect of the Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations. He takes over from Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark.

The bishops elected Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford to serve as chairman-elect of the Committee on Divine Worship. Blair has served on several conference committees, including those on evangelization and doctrine

Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City was elected to lead the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

There was a tie in the election to name a successor to Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia as chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco and Bishop John Doerfler of Marquette each received 125-125 votes.

Archbishop Cordileone was declared the winner by virtue of being the bishop senior in consecration.

Washington, D.C. auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville-Rodriguez was elected to lead the Committee on Migration, currently chaired by Bishop Joe Vásquez of Austin. The committee seeks to provide awareness of and responses to the plight of immigrants, human trafficking, and refugees.

The bishops also elected Bishop Gregory Parkes of St. Petersburg, Florida, as treasurer-elect for the USCCB. The office of treasurer manages the conference’s funds and sits as vice-chairman on the Committee on Priorities and Plans. Parkes will take office in November 2019. He worked in the banking industry for several years before entering the seminary and being ordained.

The American bishops also chose two new members for the Board of Directors of Catholic Relief Services: Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services and Bishop Oscar Solis of Salt Lake City. Bishop James Johnston was also elected to serve a second term.


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Vatican:    Pope Francis: A Christian's life should point to truth

Vatican City, Nov 14, 2018 / 05:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Christians are called to not only refrain from telling falsehoods, but to conduct their entire lives – both words and actions – as a witness to the Truth that is Jesus Christ, Pope Francis said Wednesday.

“Let us ask ourselves: what truth do the works of us Christians attest to, our words, our choices?” the pope said Nov. 14. “Everyone can ask themselves: am I a witness to the truth, or am I more or less a liar disguised as a true person?”

In his weekly catechesis, Pope Francis reflected on the eighth commandment: “you shall not give false witness against thy neighbor.”

“The truth,” he said, “finds its full realization in the very person of Jesus, in his way of living and dying, the fruit of his relationship with the Father.” As children of God, people are given this same access to truth, sent through the Holy Spirit, “who is the Spirit of truth, who attests to our hearts that God is our Father.”

Francis explained that “in every one of his actions man affirms or denies this truth. From small everyday situations to the most demanding choices. But it is the same logic: that which parents and grandparents teach us when they tell us not to lie. The same logic.”

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the pope said, the commandment against lying, “forbids falsifying the truth in relations with others.”

“Inauthentic communication” is a serious error because it prevents relationships and love, which require truth; and “where there is a lie there is no love, there can be no love,” he emphasized.

To tell the truth in one’s relationships means more than to just not tell a falsehood with one’s words, he continued, listing also “gestures, attitudes, silences, and absences,” as possible occasions of dishonesty.

“A person speaks with everything he is and what he does. We are always in communication. We all live by communicating and we are constantly poised between truth and falsehood,” he stated.

An element of telling the truth in relationships includes not gossiping, he said, departing from his prepared remarks to emphasize that to gossip is like dropping a bomb, which destroys the community and the reputation of others.

“Be careful!” he urged. “How much gossip destroys communion for inappropriateness or lack of delicacy!”

Just because one may have told the truth about another person, does not mean it was right to say it, or to reveal some personal or confidential information, Francis warned.

Christians are not exceptional people, but “we are children of the heavenly Father, who is good and does not disappoint,” therefore, Christians are able to live in the truth “not so much said with discourses,” he said, but as a “way of existing, a way of life, and it is seen in every single act.”

“Truth is a marvelous revelation of God, of his Father’s face, is his boundless love,” he said.

The question, “what is truth?” Francis noted, is what Pontius Pilate asked Jesus when he questioned him about his kingship before handing him over to the Jewish people to be crucified.

Jesus said: “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.” Jesus gives this “testimony” by his passion and death, Pope Francis said. Through his manner of suffering and dying, “Jesus manifests the Father, his merciful and faithful love.”

“Not to say false testimony means to live as a child of God… letting the great truth emerge in every act: that God is Father and we can trust Him. I trust God: this is the great truth,” he concluded.

“From our trust in God, who is a Father and loves me, loves us, my truth is born; and to be truthful and not a liar.”


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Middle East - Africa:    A look at blasphemy laws around the world

Islamabad, Pakistan, Nov 14, 2018 / 03:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- While the world awaits the fate of Asia Bibi, who remains in hiding in Pakistan following the acquittal of her death sentence for blasphemy, religious freedom advocates are calling for an end to blasphemy laws across the globe.

“Blasphemy laws are a way for governments to deny their citizens – and particularly those of minority religions – the basic human rights to freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression,” Dr. Tenzin Dorjee, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said in the statement in October.

However, Dorjee’s statement was not directed at Pakistan -- but Ireland.

Irish citizens voted to remove a provision criminalizing blasphemy from their Constitution on Oct. 26, although the law had not been enforced in recent years.

The Irish Bishops’ Conference said that the blasphemy reference, although “largely obsolete,” could raise concern because of how it could be used “to justify violence and oppression against minorities in other parts of the world.”

More than one-third of the world’s countries maintain laws that criminalize blasphemy -- defined as “the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God.” Punishments for blasphemy across the 68 countries range widely from fines to imprisonment and death.

In Sudan and Saudi Arabia, corporal punishment, such as whipping, has been used in blasphemy cases. Recently, Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to 1000 public lashes, given in installments of 50 lashes every week, in addition to 10 years in prison separated from his wife and children, and a 10-year travel ban after his prison sentence.

Compulsory and correctional labor are the prescribed punishments in the blasphemy laws in Russia and Kazakhstan.

Iran has the world’s most severe blasphemy laws, followed closely by Pakistan, according to the U.S. Commission of International Religious Freedom. Both countries’ laws enforce the death penalty for an insult to the prophet Muhammad. In 2015 alone, Iran executed 20 people for “enmity against God.”

In addition to Iran and Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Qatar, and Egypt have among the world’s worst blasphemy laws, the USCIRF study found in 2017.

Although many of the world’s blasphemy laws are enforced in largely Muslim countries, they exist in every region of the world.

Some Western nations, such as Malta and Denmark, have repealed their national blasphemy laws in recent years, while other countries still enforce them.

In Spain, an actor was prosecuted in September for explicit comments insulting God and the Virgin Mary in Facebook posts that supported the procession of a giant model of female genitalia through the streets of Seville, mocking the Catholic tradition.

Spain’s penal code requires monetary fines for “publicly disparaging dogmas, beliefs, rites or ceremonies” of a religion, and include similar penalties for those who publicly disparage people without a religious faith.

Greek law maintains that “anyone who publicly and maliciously and by any means blasphemes the Greek Orthodox Church or any religion tolerable in Greece shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than two years.”

The Italian criminal code also includes provisions for “insulting the state religion,” however the government does not generally enforce the law against blasphemy.

In Thailand, the constitution calls for the state to “implement measures to prevent any forms of harm or threat against Buddhism” with potential punishment from two to seven years imprisonment.

In Pakistan, Catholic mother-of-five Asia Bibi was recently acquitted after spending eight years on death row. However, her life is still in danger, as the ruling is under government review as part of a deal to appease groups that were leading riots in the streets. And the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan reports that at least 40 other people in Pakistan are either on death row or currently serving life sentences for blasphemy.

Nearly half of those facing the death penalty under Pakistan’s blasphemy law have been Christians in a country that is 97 percent Muslim.

“Bibi's case illustrates how blasphemy laws are used to persecute the weakest of the weak among Pakistan's religious minorities,” Religious Freedom Institute fellow Farahnaz Ispahani wrote earlier this year.

“As a poor Christian from a low caste, Bibi was among the most vulnerable and susceptible to discrimination. And the legal system -- which, in theory, should be designed to protect the innocent -- failed her in every way.”

 


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Americas:    Inmates building 250 confessionals for 2019 World Youth Day

Panama City, Panama, Nov 14, 2018 / 12:30 am (ACI Prensa).- Inmates from La Joya and Nueva Joya prisons have begun the construction of 250 confessionals to be used in the Sacrament of Reconciliation at World Youth Day in Panama in January 2019.

The confessionals will be set up in Omar Recreation Park in Panama City, which will be called “Forgiveness Park” during the youth event. In total, 35 inmates are working from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily, sanding, painting, and assembling the crosses and wooden confessionals.

Interior designer Lilibeth Bennet created different two models for the confessionals, both inspired by the WYD logo and using the same colors.

In an interview conducted by WYD organizers, the prisoners said that the project is not just “simple cabinetry work,” but allows them to contribute to a project aimed at young people who will be able to “take a different path” than they did.

“Even though we won't be able to be there (at World Youth Day) we still feel that we're doing something important, and I thank God for the opportunity he has given us as prisoners to contribute to a mission as important as World Youth Day,” explained Luis Dominguez, who is in charge of painting and supervising the sanding of the confessionals.

Jesús Ramos, another one of the inmates constructing the confessionals, said that even though he is an Evangelical, he is sure of the valuable contribution that World Youth Day is making to young people.

“I am grateful that they took me into account because I've learned how to use the tools here, to work based on respect and together toward the same goal…I feel included and happy to work for God,” he said.

The project coordinator for the prison system, Alma De León, explained that the work is being done with the support of an instructor from the National Institute for Professional Formation and Training for Human Development of Panama, and it is a way to demonstrate the capabilities of people in prison. 

Sharon Diaz, deputy director general secretary of the prison system, said that the inmates form “a single team, and they know the importance of working on a project as unique as this one, regardless of the faith they profess.”

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 


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US:    Intense debate over handling of abuse scandal ensues at USCCB meeting

Baltimore, Md., Nov 13, 2018 / 07:25 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- More than 20 bishops and cardinals offered passionate interventions during an open floor discussion on the sex abuse crisis at the U.S. bishops’ meeting in Baltimore on Tuesday afternoon.

More bishops wanted to speak, but due to time constraints, their comments were reserved for the next morning.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), opened the discussions with the announcement that he had created a “deliberately small” task force, comprised of himself and the former presidents of the USCCB.

The task force, which includes DiNardo and Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, and Archbishop Wilton Gregory, will work closely with the committees of the conference to examine instances of abuse and mishandling of abuse cases, and their work will culminate in a report presented at the next bishops’ meeting in June, DiNardo said.

Afterwards DiNardo opened the floor to any comments on the task force or the issue of the sex abuse crisis at large.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, who has been barred from public ministry in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for the mishandling and cover-up of abuse cases involving minors and priests there, opened up the comments from the bishops, urging them to seek a greater collegiality amongst themselves as “brother bishops.”

He said the bishops should look to the example of St. Charles Borromeo, who said “we are not bishops alone or separate, we belong to a college and have a responsibility to it.”

He also encouraged bishops to pray more together and to consider establishing houses of prayer for priests and bishops, similar to one found in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Finally, he urged the bishops to “not allow outside influences to interfere with or attempt to break bonds of ecclesial union” that they have with each other.

Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico then gave a brief intervention, in which he suggested that bishops look to their priests to know how the faithful are reacting to the crisis and for any suggestions about possible solutions.

“It occurs to me that we might benefit from the wisdom of our brother priests, they are our closest collaborators, by tapping them in a more formal way,” he said.

Following Wester, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco then gave a long intervention in which he described what he has been hearing from Catholics in his area.

“We’ve heard how important it is to listen to our people, I’ve held listening sessions in my own Archdiocese” regarding the abuse scandal, he said.

From this listening, Cordileone said he has found that Catholics tend to fall in one of two camps regarding the abuse crisis: the first camp believes that the Church is not talking about the real problem, which is the prevalence homosexuality among the clergy and its correlation with abuse, he said.

The second camp believes that the real problem is an all-male hierarchy, “because women would never have allowed this to happen,” and therefore women must be invited in to all levels of the clergy.

Cordileone, who clarified that he was merely reporting what he found among his people, said that both conclusions are overly simplistic, but neither are without some merit.

“We do sometimes act as a good old boys club,” he said, with problems of “cronyism, favoritism, and cover-up.” He urged the bishops to find solutions to these “legitimate concerns” of Catholics in the second camp.

When considering the first camp, Cordileone cautioned against the “overly simplistic” conclusion that homosexuality causes sexual abuse. That “obviously cannot be true” he said, as some priests with homosexual tendencies faithfully serve the Church, while some heterosexually priests serve the Church poorly.

Still, the concern “has some validity,” he said, pointing to a recently-published study by Father D. Paul Sullins, a Catholic priest and retired Catholic University of America sociology professor. Sullins’ analysis found a rising trend in abuse, and argued that the evidence strongly suggests links between sexual abuse of minors and two factors: a disproportionate number of homosexual clergy, and the manifestation of a “homosexual subculture” in seminaries.

“The worst thing we could do is discredit this study so we can ignore or deny this reality,” Cordileone said. “We have to lean into it...to ignore it would be fleeing from the truth.”

The archbishop recommended further studies into the correlation between homosexuality and sexual abuse, one that avoids “quick and easy answers” and would attempt to find the root causes of this correlation.

Cordileone’s was the first intervention met with applause from many bishops.

Another California bishop, Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles, followed Cordileone’s comments by asking about the status of the Vatican investigation into the accusations against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and whether the bishops might “bring any respectful pressure to bear” to the Holy See on furthering the investigation.

DiNardo responded, saying that he knew that the four dioceses in which McCarrick had served had opened investigations, but he did not know of the status of a Vatican investigation on the matter.

In his intervention, Bishop Michael Burns of Guam asked about “meaningful constraints” on bishops accused of abuse, such as his predecessor Bishop Anthony S. Apuron, who was found guilty of sexual abuse of minors by a Vatican tribunal, but who has asked for an appeal.

“It’s been grating on the people of God” to have no concrete knowledge of the status of Apuron’s constraints, he said.

In his comments, Bishop Robert Daniel Conlon of Joliet, Illinois, said he agreed with an earlier suggestion of Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, that the remedy for the abuse crisis and accusations against bishops may already be found in the bishop’s charters and laws.

“People say the Church is hung up on sex, this is evidence of that,” he said regarding the debate about the sex abuse crisis. “We are capable of malfeasance in many other areas as well,” he said, and urged the bishops to consider more broadly the ways bishops may have gone wrong.

“I promised celibacy during (ordinations),” he added, “and I have to say I’m a little chagrined to be asked to sign something that says I will be accountable to certain standards.”

Bishop Andrew Cozzens of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said in his following intervention that he wished to see more fraternal correction among the bishops. He asked that bishops seek out the counsel of the bishops in their region if they are considering resigning, and also that bishops fraternally correct bishops in their region if they believe they should resign.

“I dream of a day when we as brothers are strong enough to say - we think you should resign, even if he’s not ready to hear that,” he said. “Those are difficult conversations to have, nobody wants to have them, but they can be very important.”

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, a “small rural area” with a minority Catholic population, gave a notably strong intervention, in which he asked the bishops to consider how McCarrick got to be in the positions that he was “if we really believed that what was going on was wrong?”

“It’s part of our deposit of faith that we believe homosexual activity is immoral,” he said. “How did he get promoted if we are all of one mind that this is wrong? Do we believe the doctrine of the Church or not?”

Strickland said that while homosexual people are “children of God who deserve great care” and not personal condemnation, the Church should teach clearly that homosexual actions are sinful, and help people move from sin to virtue.

“There’s a priest that travels around saying that he doesn’t (believe this teaching), and he’s well promoted in various places,” Strickland said. “Can that be presented in our dioceses? That same-sex marriage is just fine and that the Church may one day grow to understand that? That’s not what we teach.”

Strickland’s intervention was also followed by applause from numerous bishops.

Bishop Thomas Daly of Spokane said he had heard from many concerned, faithful Catholic parents who want to encourage vocations in their children, but are growing impatient with a lack of answers on the abuse crisis from Church leadership.

It is a concern the bishops should “take very seriously,” he said. “My feeling is judging from their conversations, they’re running out of patience.”

DiNardo then commented that he personally reads “thousands” of letters that the “people of God” have sent to the USCCB.

“If there’s one thing that nags at everyone, it’s the Archbishop McCarrick thing,” he said. “It seems to be ubiquitous. This is the one that I think has to be addressed, it’s just bad for our people.”

In the next intervention, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, said he seconded an earlier suggestion from Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, that metropolitan bishops be given greater authority over the bishops in their region and the ability to conduct their own reviews and investigations.

“We have an existing structure but it needs to be empowered,” he said. He also added that it should be clarified which accusations against bishops and clergy should be made public - those that are deemed credible, or those that have been further substantiated.

He added that the media “has been very negative” about the Church following the crisis and has perpetuated a “myth” that nothing has changed since the 2002 Dallas Charter, and that the bishops must do a better job speaking out about what has already changed.

Archbishop George Lucas of Omaha, Neb., said in his intervention that the process for handling misconduct on the part of bishops must be made clear, transparent and expedient.

“How bishops are held accountable when there has been misconduct is not clear, it’s a process that happens sometimes, but it’s not timely, it’s not transparent,” he said.

He said that he was “very disappointed” by instructions from the Vatican to not hold votes on proposed changes, but said he saw it as an opportunity to be very clear with the Holy See about needs to be done at the meetings in February.

Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing, Michigan, gave a brief intervention in which he said he also favored the suggestions of strengthening the role of metropolitan bishops, and that it would likely be well-received in Rome.

Bishop Murry of Youngstown, Ohio said in his intervention that while lay people are angry, they want to help the Church, and the bishops should accept their help.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, Florida joked at the beginning of his comments that the bishops should be glad Donald Trump is president, otherwise the Church would be receiving even more attention and “bad press” than it already has.

He urged the bishops not to get “distracted” by the media, and not to give in to the “industry and addiction” of outrage. Most people are not hung up on the sex abuse crisis, he said.

“People are coming to Church, they're praying, they’re sending their kids to Catechism, the life of the Church is moving on. If you’re not reading the blogs, if you’re not watching cable TV, this is not front and center for most of our people,” he said.

“We’ve done a lot, we have to tell our story better and not get played in the outrage business and get back to what we’re supposed to be doing as pastors,” he said, to applause from some bishops.

Bishop George Thomas from Las Vegas followed Wenski, and said that he had heard from people who were “rightfully” angry and disappointed that the Vatican had put a hold on the votes of the bishop’s conference on any proposals regarding sex abuse.

“The perception is that justice delayed is justice denied,” he said. He said he still hoped the conference would hold an “advisory vote that reflects the gravity of the issue at hand, the urgency of the matter, the depth of the breach of trust…(in order to) remove a cancer and help heal this wound that is affecting so deeply the living body of Christ.”

Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, where McCarrick had once served, provided an update on the two investigations ongoing in his diocese, which he said are moving along but can become complicated when they overlap.

He said the diocese is “committed” to sharing the findings with the Holy See. He added that if Catholic’s trust in the credibility of their bishops was so easily shattered by the sex abuse crisis, “what was there before? What was our credibility built on, that it could be so swept away?”

Cardinal William Levada, emeritus prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said in his intervention that the McCarrick situation may have been prevented if there were stronger investigations conducted when transferring bishops to different dioceses.

Bishop Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City, Missouri reiterated in his interventions the “necessity” of the laity, who could serve as a “tremendous resource” in responding to the abuse crisis.

Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland, Oregon, said the abuse crisis has caused him to “take a real good hard look at myself and how I’m living my life as a bishop in the Church today,” spiritually and pastorally.

“Have we lost sight about what our mission is truly all about?” he said. “Our mission is to sanctify the world,” through shepherding and being close to the people.

“Reform begins with us individually,” he said.

Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, California said in his intervention that he disagreed with all of the proposals to strengthen the role of the metropolitan bishops, an effort which he said would be perceived by lay Catholics as too little, too late.

“Maybe that moment has passed and we’ve missed our opportunity to do that,” he said. “In the current time, the transparency and independent review seems to be more on the minds of the faithful. We have to continue to pursue what has been proposed by the committee.”

All other interventions were reserved for the following morning. Following an announcement about expected ice and snow, the bishops broke for the evening. Thursday is the final day for the fall meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which this year has focused almost exclusively on their response to the sex abuse crisis in the U.S. Church.


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US:    Alleged victim of Archbishop McCarrick speaks at rally outside USCCB meeting

Baltimore, Md., Nov 13, 2018 / 05:34 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- James Grein, the man who came forward this summer alleging he was abused for 18 years by Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, appeared in public Tuesday for the first time and revealed his full name. Previously, the New York Times had identified him only as “James.”

Grein appeared at the Nov. 13 “Silence Stops Now” counter-rally organized by several groups critical of the bishops’ approach to addressing the sexual abuse crisis. The rally was held near the location of the USCCB’s Fall General Assembly in Baltimore.

Grein was visibly nervous taking the stage, where he delivered a short speech about his experience coming forward with his story, and received an extended standing ovation when he finished.

In July Grein came forward with his story to the New York Times. He said McCarrick began abusing him when he was 11 years old. At that time, McCarrick was 39 years old, and a priest of the Archdiocese of New York.  

This abuse continued for the next 18 years, he said, during which McCarrick was consecrated a bishop and served in the local Churches of New York, Metuchen, and Newark. In November 2000, he was appointed Archbishop of Washington, where he served the remainder of his career until his 2006 retirement. In 2001, McCarrick was elevated to the College of Cardinals. About a week after Grein’s allegation was published, McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals.

Grein credited the first survivor coming forward for giving him the strength to share his experience.

"That article would never have been written had it not been for a 16-year-old altar boy who accused McCarrick of abusing him," he said. After that survivor went public, and his claim was found to be credible, Grein said he felt as though “my time has come” and chose to share his story.

Previously, he felt there was “no place” for him to report his abuse, and that nobody would believe him even if he were to report it. Grein said he was motivated to go public Tuesday as a way to inspire other victims.

"I do this today so that others like me have the strength to come forward. Think about what you can do to help others. This movement must continue to gain strength,” he said.

“Our bishops must know that the jig is up.”

Grein said he believed that McCarrick’s punishment of a life of prayer and penance was a “necessary step” on the extended journey to “reform and reclaim the Church.” McCarrick is currently living in a monastery in Kansas until he is faces a canonical trial.

Despite his abuse, Grein said that he has continued to put his faith in Christ, and continues a regimen of prayer and fasting.

"Jesus' law is much higher than pontifical secrets,” he told the crowd.

“It’s not Francis' Church. It’s Jesus Christ's Church.”


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US:    USCCB discusses standards of conduct, independent commission

Baltimore, Md., Nov 13, 2018 / 04:54 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. bishops have formally begun discussion of a new set of standards of conduct and a special commission to investigate accusations made against bishops.

The bishops, meeting in Baltimore for the fall general assembly of United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, had hoped the two proposals would form the centerpiece of their response to the recent sexual abuse scandals.

After the Vatican intervened to prevent the measures being voted on, the bishops have chosen to proceed with discussion of the proposals even though they can no longer enact them.

Bishops have been invited to propose amendments to both documents for further discussion tomorrow but were given an initial opportunity to raise any questions or observations about the two draft documents.

Presenting the Standards of Accountability for Bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark told the conference Nov. 13 that a consensus among the conference members and the exercise of working through the provisions and amendments would be of definite assistance to the conference president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, when he travels to Rome in February to attend a meeting of the heads of world’s bishops’ conferences.

In what was perhaps an indication of the broad support for the Standards, no questions or observations were raised.

Many, including some familiar with the Vatican’s decision to prevent a vote by American bishops, have expressed surprise and confusion that the draft Standards were included in the Congregation for Bishops’ injunction against voting to adopt new measures since they appeared to contain no obvious conflicts with Church law or controversial provisions.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit presented the draft proposal for the creation of a special commission to examine accusations against bishops.

In his introduction, Vigneron said that the initial goal had been to present the conference with a substantial outline for the new entity, though leaving some of the details unresolved to allow for collaborative discussions during the Baltimore meeting. The original aim was to arrive at a final plan by June 2019. Now, he conceded, it was “much harder to predict” what final results would now be possible.

Despite clear, if unelaborated, concerns by the Holy See about the plan, Vigneron said the commission was “designed to avoid infringing upon the jurisdiction of local bishops or the Holy See” and was intended to be a resource of “expertise and independence” available to both.

Spelling out how the new body would function, he told the conference that complaints would be received by the commission through a third-party reporting mechanism, with civil law enforcement being immediately informed if they regarded the abuse of minors.

The commission would look into each complaint, having first informed the apostolic nuncio in Washington. Following each complaint, there would be an investigation producing a “substantial report” which would be given to the nuncio to “do with as he sees fit,” comparing it to the conclusions of a diocesan lay review board.

The nine-member commission would have six lay men and women and three clergy, including experts in law enforcement, civil and canon law, psychology and social work. It would also include a woman religious and a clerical abuse survivor as members. Further experts and consultants would be taken on as the case load demanded.

Vigneron said that the independent body would be registered as an independent not-for-profit organization with a board of directors and produce an annual report detailing how many cases it investigated each year. He also explained that, as part of its independence from the bishops’ conference, the commission would be funded through contributions by dioceses directly, with an expected annual cost projected of $500,000, plus expenses for individual investigations.

While being itself totally independent, Vigneron underscored that the authority of local bishop would be respected, saying the work of the commission would not “over-ride the will of the bishop but rely on his consent” to work in the diocese of each complaint.

During an extended question and answer session, a number of bishops raised questions about the proposals as they were presented.

Archbishop Sample raised the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, which he said appeared to show that the breakdown in the current system took place at the level of the nunciature, with allegations either not being forwarded to Rome, or not being acted upon when they arrived there.

Sample noted that “we can do whatever we want here but there needs to be a partnership with the Holy See” so that allegations were not “swept under the rug.”

Archbishop Wenski of Miami noted that the active support of the nuncio was crucial; otherwise the plan would be “an exercise in futility.”

Several bishops seemed to speak against creation of the commission all together.

Bishop Gerald Kicanas told the conference that “we already have a process” and that proposals were “adding something that doesn’t have a particular purpose.”

Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago suggested that the plan was unnecessary and separated the process from “the life of the Church.” “We already have a system [to handle accusations against bishops] through metropolitans,” he told the bishops. He called the proposed commission a way of “outsourcing” problems instead of “taking responsibility for ourselves.”

Archbishop Vigneron responded to Cupich, saying that the commission was “a form of assistance” for bishops and “an act of communion, engaged in mutual communion to support one another.”

Vigneron told Cupich it would function “in harmony with each of us as bishops exercising governance.”

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia raised a similar point, noting that the existing structures organized around metropolitan archbishops could provide a more cost-effective option but would simply not be feasible without a strengthened canonical authority for metropolitan bishops.

Chaput said it was the conclusion of the executive committee that it might be easier to get Roman approval for a whole new structure than a change in canon law to make this possible.

Bishop Anthony DiMarzio of Brooklyn offered the last observation of the discussion, noting that the confidentialy or publicity of the process was a serious concern. He said that the lesson to be drawn from the treatment of many priests publicly accused of abuse but later found innocent was that a person’s good name often could not be recovered.

DiMarzio said that the proposed commission was bound to do everything possible to restore an innocent bishop’s good name, this would likely prove an impossible task.

The discussion of both proposals will continue tomorrow, by which time bishops will have submitted proposed amendments to the plans.


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US:    Jesuits in western U.S. to name members credibly accused of abuse

Portland, Ore., Nov 13, 2018 / 04:24 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- More names of clergy and religious accused of sex abuse are set to come out this December from a western U.S. province of the Society of Jesus, which says the decision to name the credibly accused is an effort for transparency that supports victims.

The province includes the territory of the former Oregon Province, which declared bankruptcy due to abuse lawsuits in 2009.

“While the vast majority of these offenses occurred in the past, the People of God rightly demand and deserve transparency on the part of Church leadership,’ Father Scott Santarosa, S.J., provincial of the U.S.A. West Province of the Society of Jesus, said Nov. 9. “Such transparency is important to support victims in their healing and to rebuild trust in the Church.”

He said the province will release the names of Jesuits credibly accused of sex abuse since 1950. The list is presently being compiled and is planned for a Dec. 7 release. The province will also engage an external review to ensure the completeness of the list and to ensure that previous allegations were handled properly.

“If the review identifies additional names of Jesuits with credible allegations of abuse, we will release those names as well,” he said.

The Portland, Ore.-based province presently has 484 Jesuits, a spokesperson for the West Province told CNA. Its priests and brothers serve throughout the U.S. and abroad.

Its territory includes the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. The province was created in a 2017 merger of the California and Oregon provinces.

“On behalf of the Society of Jesus, I apologize to victims and their families,” Santarosa continued. “There is no greater betrayal of pastoral care than the abuse of a minor by someone with a sacred duty to protect and care for the People of God.”

Santarosa said the Church in the U.S. has been “reeling” since the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report. That report named 300 priests from six dioceses who had been credibly accused of sex abuse of 1,000 children and underage teens going back decades.

Saying that the Catholic Church in the U.S. has since undergone “significant reform,” he added, “we are now called to deepen that reform by becoming more transparent.” He said the Jesuit province hopes that issuing the list of accused clergy and religious and calling for an independent review will offer victims and their families “a step forward in the healing process.”

“Since 2002, Jesuits have enforced stringent policies to ensure the safety of minors,” Santarosa said. He encouraged anyone who has felt victimized by a Jesuit to contact both the province’s victim advocacy coordinator and the appropriate law enforcement and child protection agencies.
“I ask you to pray for the victims of abuse and for our Church,” Santarosa concluded. “May we find in this moment the courage to move forward with integrity, transparency and accountability.”

Santarosa said his conversations with abuse survivors have been “moments of grace as I encounter people of courage and conviction, people who realize that although the Church has failed them, God never will.”

As of 2015, there were 2,325 members of the Society of Jesus in the U.S., a decline from 7,628 in 1970, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate reported in its Fall 2015 newsletter.

In February 2009 the Oregon Province filed for bankruptcy soon after 200 claims of sex abuse of primarily Alaskan children were pending or threatened against the province. Before filing for bankruptcy, the province had settled more than 200 claims for about $84 million, the Seattle Times reported.

At the time, the province had 235 Jesuit priests and brothers across Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington state.

In 2011 the province agreed to pay $166.1 million to about 500 abuse victims, many of whom were Native Americans or Alaska Natives, as part of its bankruptcy settlement. About two dozen of the victims were physically abused, while about 480 suffered sex abuse.

About $48.1 million of the settlement came from the Jesuits themselves, with the rest coming from insurance companies. About $6 million of that settlement was set aside for victims who could come forward in the future.

Worldwide, the Society of Jesus has about 17,000 priests and brothers worldwide. It is the largest men’s religious order in the Church. Their numbers peaked in 1965 at 36,000.

 


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US:    Archbishop Cordileone says Mass for San Francisco's deceased homeless

San Francisco, Calif., Nov 13, 2018 / 03:11 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Eight days after the feast of All Saints, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco said a Mass of the Dead for the homeless of the city, emphasizing the importance of remembering and praying for the deceased homeless.

“One of the greatest acts of charity we can perform is to pray for the eternal salvation of those who have gone before. That is what we are doing," said Martin Ford, social action coordinator of the Archdiocese of San Francisco's Office of Human Life and Dignity.

The Nov. 8 Mass was said at St. Patrick's parish in San Francisco. The collection taken during Mass was used to support the homeless ministry of Catholic Charities San Francisco.

According to the San Francisco Homeless Count and Survey 2017, there are more than 2,100 chronically homeless in this city. It is difficult to track the exact numbers of homeless deaths in the city, but the survey said mortality rates is four to nine times higher for those who are continuously homeless.

In his homily, Archbishop Cordileone connected the coming of winter and the passing of life. He spoke on the Second Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, noting its theme on the briefness of life and the journey to eternal life.

“There is a sense of things coming to an end and a passing into silence – the silence of winter – which reminds me of the silence of death. It’s a reminder to us of the end of life and how fleeting our life is in this world,” he said.

“This is what St. Paul is speaking about in this passage from his second letter to the Corinthians when he is comparing the body to a tent… This is a disturbingly accurate description of those who die in the streets; most of them don’t even have a literal tent.”

He recalled the nomadic lifestyle of the Israelites following the exodus. He said that similarly, the people of God are on a journey, which should be lived with charity.

“As long as we are in this world we are a people along a pilgrimage – a movement towards a goal that is eternity, our only true home. And, therefore, we must always keep our vision fixed on that ultimate destination that God created us for,” he said.

“How do we do that? [St. Paul] says, ‘for we must always appear before the judgement seat of Christ so that each one may receive recompense according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.’”

Archbishop Cordileone discussed Matthew 25's portrayal of the last judgement, saying, “This is where the corporal works of mercy come from, and it is certainly a reminder of our call to put these works of mercy into concrete action.”

The homeless also conduct works of mercy, he said, noting that if those with little may give charitably, then Christians who have more resources will be judged accordingly.

“We can think about how concrete acts of love and mercy are shown by our homeless brothers and sisters. They who have so much less than we have show mercy too. So we with so much more, how much more will we be held to a higher standard, when it comes to rendering an account to God for our lives in this world.”

He expressed hope that the Mass would assist the homeless “on their way to the eternal hope that is God’s kingdom of heaven” and would inspire the congregation to perform more acts of mercy.

“May this work of mercy please our Lord and may it inspire us to glorify God in our bodies through concrete acts of love and mercy, so that when it is our turn to make the passage of this life to the next and face our own final judgement, the great King of all the ages will give us a place with the sheep at his right hand.”


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US:    National Review Board offers suggestions for bishops' accountability

Baltimore, Md., Nov 13, 2018 / 03:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking on Tuesday at the USCCB’s Fall General Assembly in Baltimore, Dr. Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, told those present that while efforts taken by the bishops to combat the sexual abuse crisis have been noticed, there is still much work to be done.

Although it was “regrettable” that the Vatican had canceled the planned vote on sex abuse reform measures, Cesareo said the National Review Board will continue to stand by their recommendations to the body of bishops.

“Your response to this crisis has been incomplete,” Cesareo said bluntly, pointing out that the secular media and authorities have filled in gaps when it comes to increased transparency and accountability for those in positions of authority. He said it was “shameful” that abuse had been hidden from the public and “allowed to fester” until it was uncovered by secular sources.

What’s worse, he added, was how many innocent people have suffered due to the “inaction and silence” of some of those present. Bishops “must put the victim first when allegations come forward,” he said. “How many souls have been lost because of this crisis?”

Like Apostolic Nuncio Christophe Pierre, who addressed the USCCB on Monday, Cesareo did not mince words when describing how the bishops have betrayed the trust of the faithful and would now have to work to regain that trust. Many Catholics are “angry and frustrated” and will not be satisfied with prayers, he explained.

“They seek action that signals a cultural change from the leadership of the Church,” he said. The bishops must “embrace the principles of openness and transparency” that were outlined in the Dallas Charter from 2002, and “come to terms with the past.” Until the bishops acknowledge the truth about what occurred, they will not be able to experience reconciliation, said Cesareo.

In terms of recommendations on what to do now, the National Review Board said that each diocese should, as soon as possible, review all files regarding clergy abuse allegations dating back to at least 1950. If it is possible, the dioceses should also share the results of this review with the public.

This process should result in a list of clergy who have faced a credible accusation of abuse against a minor or vulnerable adult, and an analysis of how their cases were handled by the bishop and their diocese. In order to increase credibility, Cesareo recommended that the laity be involved in some capacity in this investigation.

Cesareo acknowledged that many bishops have already gone through this process, either through a review of files or an investigation with the state’s attorney general. For this, Cesareo said he was “grateful for your proactive steps to restore credibility” and that this was a “true marks of the leadership the Church so desperately needs.”

Bishops must be accountable for failures within their dioceses, he said, pointing out that while plenty of priests have been punished for sexual abuse, “the accountability of bishops has never been fully addressed.” In order to address this accountability, Cesareo said there is a need to investigate allegations that concern bishops, as well as to enforce consequences among those who have “failed in their responsibility to protect the vulnerable.”

Currently, the National Review Board said they are “unaware of any mechanism” that the USCCB uses to enact consequences against culpable bishops as well as “any sense of meaningful fraternal correction.” Cesareo said that perhaps the USCCB could bar those bishops from membership and prohibit them from attending national meetings as a form of punishment.

In addition to these steps, Cesareo said that the Dallas Charter should be “revisited,” and that the audit process be strengthened. Bishops, he said, should also be included under the charter.

During a question-and-answer period after Cesareo’s presentation, numerous bishops came forward to ask questions or to share stories.

Notably, Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, suggested that the definition of “vulnerable adult” be expanded to include seminarians. That suggestion appeared to be well-received.

Earlier this year, O’Malley came under fire after it was shown that his secretary had ignored a letter of complaint against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick because the complaint concerned adult seminarians, not minors. O’Malley has since promised to update his policy regarding letters.

In his first public comments since his resignation was accepted by the pope, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Washington, recalled the bishops’ meeting in 2002, when the sexual abuse crisis in Boston was unfolding. That meeting, he recounted, considered by St. John Paul II as a “moment of purification,” for not only the bishops themselves, but for the institution of the Church.

And while Wuerl acknowledged that the bishops have come quite a ways since that time, they “still have a long way to go,” he said.

Wuerl offered praise for Cesareo’s points stressing the need for accountability and personal responsibility amongst the bishops.

“Sometimes we have to take personal responsibility, and we simply need to say, this needs to be done. Institutionally, it's easier. Personally, it's where that purification has to be a part of the process,” he said.


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US:    Reporting hotline for complaints against bishops debated at USCCB meeting

Baltimore, Md., Nov 13, 2018 / 01:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A third-party complaint hotline could solve a major problem in the Church when it comes to reporting abuse - namely, that there is currently no procedure in place for filing complaints against bishops, Archbishop Jose Gomez said at the USCCB meeting Tuesday.  

“With this new system we are trying to address a problem…(Catholics) have no clear avenue to report allegations or complaints against bishops,” Gomez said.

“With the 2002 charter, there is a clear avenue for making complaints against priests or deacons through a diocesan coordinator,” he said. “But in light of recent events, we are now talking about complaints against bishops.”

Gomez addressed the U.S. bishops gathered in Baltimore Nov. 12-14 for their fall meeting.

The reporting hotline was presented as a discussion item, as part of a presentation of four proposals intended to help with the reporting and handling of cases of sexual abuse against minors, and the sexual abuse or harassment of adults, by bishops.

When introducing the session, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo said the discussion was not meant to slight the authority of the Holy See, which has ordered the bishops to hold their final votes on such proposals until after a meeting at the Vatican in February. Rather, the bishops were merely discussing things in their immediate scope.

Those filing complaints are “understandably” concerned about how complaints against a bishop might be handled if they are filed directly to a diocese, Gomez said, and they may want to reach out to the U.S. nunciature or the pope himself, but not know how to do so.

The third party reporting system could help restore some trust and accountability regarding those complaints, Gomez said.

The hotline would receive complaints either through a toll-free phone number or online, in English or Spanish, and they could be filed anonymously, Gomez said. The person filing a complaint would be directed to a designated compliance official, and they would be given a tracking number so that they could follow the status of their claim.

The hotline would handle three kinds of complaints: those accusing bishops of sexual abuse of minors, those accusing bishops of the sexual abuse or harassment of adults, and those accusing bishops of mishandling complaints against other church leaders involving sexual abuse.

“All other kinds of complaints will be screened out,” Gomez said.

Gomez encouraged anyone with a criminal complaint to go to civil authorities, but said the hotline could help with the handling of harassment complaints, which are not always received by civil authorities.

Such reporting hotlines are already in place in many non-profits, including some dioceses, Gomez said. More resources and promotional information will be made available to the bishops once the hotline is ready to launch, he added.

Once the floor opened for questions and comments, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago reminded the bishops that they did make a commitment to apply the 2002 Dallas Charter to themselves when appropriate.  

“In cases of an allegation of sexual abuse of minors by bishops, we will apply the requirements of the Charter also to ourselves, respecting always Church law as it applies to bishops,” the Episcopal Commitment from 2002 reads.

“In such cases, the Metropolitan will be informed when an allegation has been made against a bishop (the senior suffragan bishop will be informed when an allegation has been made against a Metropolitan).”

Cupich noted that Cardinal Timothy Dolan followed this commitment in his handling of accusations of abuse against former cardinal Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

“It’s important to remember that we have this commitment already in place, not to quibble with this provision here, but to call us to that kind of responsibility,” Cupich said.

Fielding further questions and comments from the bishops, Gomez clarified that the hotline would accept complaints from everyone, such as parents or teachers or lawyers, and not just from victims themselves.

The cost of the hotline would be about $8,500 per year, including a $2,500 set-up cost, he said.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn expressed concern that the complaints would only be made anonymously, to which Gomez responded that eventually, some victims would have to make their identities known, because “an anonymous complaint is not going to go anywhere.”

Bishop Donald Trautman, who served as Bishop of Erie, Pennsylvania from 1990 until his 2012 retirement, commented that he thought the third-party reporting system was “dangerous and unjust” because it would bring to the U.S. nuncio accusations that were “not investigated, not substantiated, not proven. That’s unjust.”

The bishops then broke for lunch before reconvening about more abuse-handling proposals in the afternoon.


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US:    'No words for depth of our anger' National Advisory Council tells US bishops

Baltimore, Md., Nov 13, 2018 / 11:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the bishops of the United States continued their fall general assembly in Baltimore Tuesday, the leaders of the National Advisory Council delivered a report to the conference, telling bishops of the “depth of anger” felt by the council members over recent scandals.

The council meets ahead of the annual sessions of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to review and vote on the proposed action items to be put before the assembly, offering their opinion on the priorities of the conference.

The council chair, Fr. David Whitestone, delivered his report to the conference Nov. 13, telling them that the council session, held Sept. 6-9, came hard on the heels of the scandal of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, and the release of the 11-page testimony of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano.

It was, Whitestone said, a “unique” gathering, unlike any of their previous meetings.

“We are facing painful times as a Church, and this was reflected in our meeting,” he told the conference.

“The depth of anger, pain, and disappointment expressed by the members of the NAC cannot begin to be expressed adequately in words.”

The council is composed of 35 members chosen to reflect the profile of the Church in the United States, including lay people, religious, and clerics from across the country.

The bishops listened as they were told that while the anger of the council was a sign of love for the Church, the “sinful acts committed by priests and bishops, and then covered up or tolerated by bishops does grave harm to the Church.”

Whitestone said that there was an urgent need for the American bishops to show true repentance which “includes not only an acknowledgment of the precise nature of past sins, but a firm purpose of amendment.”

The NAC considered a range of action items intended for consideration by the USCCB members this week but, Whitestone said, the whole council abstained from voting on items unrelated to the abuse crisis - even when they would otherwise have strongly supported them.

This, the bishops heard, was “a way of expressing [the NAC’s] belief that there is no single issue more pressing than the crisis we are now experiencing.”

This crisis, Whitestone said, concerned both “the reality of sexual abuse” and “the lack of episcopal transparency and accountability.”

The members of the NAC broadly supported the proposed plans which the bishops had intended to debate and vote upon in Baltimore, prior to Monday’s surprise intervention by the Congregation for Bishops which prevented the U.S. bishops from voting on either the proposed Standards for Episcopal Conduct or the creation of an independent commission for examining accusations made against bishops.

Whitestone expressed his disappointment that these action items had now become mere points for discussion. “These action items proposed concrete actions and not simply expressions of sorrow and vague promises to do better in the future.”

NAC chair-elect, retired Army Colonel Anita Raines, told the conference that members had considered a recommendation that the 2002 Statement of Episcopal Commitment be updated and amended in the light of recent scandals but had rejected it unanimously, instead voting in favor of the proposed new standards of conduct, noting that deacons, priests, and lay people often had to sign similar pledges of right conduct as part of their employment in different roles and that bishops should be held to a higher standard.

Raines told the bishops that the NAC had voted unanimously in favor of a national audit of seminaries to investigate the extent of “predatory homosexual behavior.” Independent investigations into homosexual misconduct are underway at seminaries in Newark, Boston, and Philadelphia.

Finally, Raines said, that the council called for a full, independent investigation into Archbishop McCarrick, with the results being made public. This investigation, Raines said, should answer basic questions still unaddressed by the Church hierarchy, including what care was given to McCarrick’s alleged victims, who authorized and knew about settlements paid to victims, and what sanctions may have been imposed on Mccarrick and when.

Raines told the bishops that these basic steps were necessary for “restoring faith and trust in the episcopacy.”

Raines and Whitestone were given a standing ovation by the conference.


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