Catholic News Agency (CNA)
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.
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.
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 Air Force 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.
Vatican City, Nov 13, 2018 / 10:46 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò sent Tuesday a message to the bishops of the United States, who are holding a plenary assembly, encouraging them to act as courageous shepherds in the face of the sex abuse crisis.
“I am writing to remind you of the sacred mandate you were given on the day of your episcopal ordination: to lead the flock to Christ,” the emeritus Apostolic Nuncio to the US said Nov. 13.
“Meditate on Proverbs 9:10: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom! Do not behave like frightened sheep, but as courageous shepherds. Do not be afraid of standing up and doing the right thing for the victims, for the faithful and for your own salvation. The Lord will render to every one of us according to our actions and omissions.”
“I am fasting and praying for you,” Archbishop Viganò concluded.
The former nuncio's message came on the second day of the USCCB's autumn general assembly, being held in Baltimore Nov. 12-14.
It was intended that the assembly would vote on proposals meant to form the basis for a response to the sexual abuse crisis facing the Church in the US.
But Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the conference, announced Monday morning that the Congregation for Bishops had directed that the vote not be held.
DiNardo said that the Holy See insisted that consideration of a code of conduct for bishops and a lay-led body to investigate bishops accused of misconduct be delayed until the conclusion of a special meeting called by Pope Francis for February.
Archbishop Viganò, who was nuncio to the US from 2011 to 2016, has issued a series of testimonies and letters in recent months.
In August, he wrote that Benedict XVI had “imposed on Cardinal McCarrick sanctions similar to those now imposed on him by Pope Francis” and that Viganò personally told Pope Francis about those sanctions in 2013.
Viganò claimed that this was ignored by Francis, who pulled McCarrick back into public ministry and allowed him to become a “kingmaker for appointments in the Curia and the United States.”
Baltimore, Md., Nov 13, 2018 / 10:35 am (CNA).- About three months after calling for an investigation into the claims made by former Apostolic Nuncio Carlo Vigano, Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas is not confident that the Vatican will ever properly investigate allegations outlined in the nuncio’s August letter.
In an interview with CNA on Monday at the USCCB’s Fall General Assembly in Baltimore, Md., Strickland also expressed concerns that bishops of late have strayed from their “basic mission” as the shepherd of souls.
Vigano, former nuncio to the U.S., released a testimony in August which claimed that Pope Francis had removed restrictions on Archbishop Theodore McCarrick that had been imposed by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
McCarrick resigned from the College of Cardinals in July of this year, following a series of public allegations against him concerning the sexual abuse of minors, seminarians, and priests. The dioceses of Newark and Metuchen subsequently confirmed they had previously reached two out-of-court-settlements with adult accusers.
Regarding the Vatican’s pledge to investigate Vigano’s various claims, Strickland told CNA he is concerned that the investigation is going far too slowly.
“I've worked in the tribunal for years, I've studied canon law,” he said. “We used to always say working in the tribunal, 'justice delayed is justice denied,' so that's my thought. It's just taking too long.”
Strickland told CNA that he is not entirely sure what was causing this delay, but he did acknowledge that Americans are generally accustomed to investigations happening quickly, while Europeans often have a more relaxed mindset.
When asked if he believed anything could be done to get Rome to speed up the investigation, Strickland was skeptical. He told CNA that while he accepts that it is up to Rome to deal with Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, he believes that the Church in the United States should do its own investigation into his alleged crimes and learn from what they uncover.
“There’s got to be files. He’s an American. I mean, his whole priesthood has been in the United States,” said Strickland.
“I would say, let’s help Rome, and have our own investigation, and do what we can. Certainly, we can.”
The delay in the investigation into McCarrick is a sign of deeper issues within the Church, Strickland said. He told CNA that he was “disappointed” thus far with how things have been handled. He described the lack of a proper investigation as an “illustration that the same machinery that caused the whole McCarrick mess, still functions--or doesn't.”
“It's that same kind of machine that allowed him to move through the ranks doing all this stuff and just sort of side-tracking the moral issues,” he said. He blamed this “machine” for slowing down the investigation into uncovering what exactly McCarrick did.
The Vigano letter, he said, has “sort of pulled the curtain back” on deeper issues within the Church--namely, moral decay amongst the clergy and the Church as a whole.
Strickland said he believes the issues regarding McCarrick, Vigano, and the lack of any real investigation into either can be traced to what he describes as a drifting away from the main job of a bishop: a need to promote the salvation of souls.
“We need to worry about the salvation of Theodore McCarrick's soul, as bishops,” he said.
“We need to be focused on the salvation of the victims and the abusers. That, to me, is the core issue.”
Strickland pointed to the events of the past summer, primarily the reaction to what he called the “Vigano question,” as proof that this primary concern has fallen out of focus among some of his brother bishops.
“All of what's happened this summer. It's ‘Oh, well, we've got to worry about global warming.’ That's not our job,” he said, in an apparent reference to comments made by Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, who in August dismissed the nuncio’s allegations as a “rabbit hole”, saying Pope Francis has a “bigger agenda” to worry about, including defending migrants and protecting the environment.
Strickland said that there is certainly a need for “good people, good laity,” working on various issues such as global warming, immigration, and general injustices in the world, noting that he’s on the board of a Catholic charity.
But he expressed concern that an overemphasis on these kinds of works is serving as a distraction from the ultimate call of a bishop: bringing people to holiness, promoting the sanctity of life, and “living the virtues.”
“I think we’ve got it flipped,” he said. “As bishops, our first job is the holiness of the people of God. The salvation of souls.”
In every situation he encounters as a bishop, Strickland said, he tries to consider how his actions may affect the salvation of souls.
Looking ahead to the future of the Church, Bishop Strickland said he believes there needs to be increased accountability among bishops, improvements in teaching the various facets of the faith - especially in terms of sexuality - continued state investigations into abuse, and reforms to ensure that seminarians will be protected throughout the formation process.
“We need to make sure that seminarians are not victimized,” he said, adding that a man who is called to seminary should not be at risk of “having his life destroyed by the people who are supposed to be forming him for the priesthood.”
One area where Strickland expressed confidence was in regards to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Although he said there are loopholes that need to be tightened, he is “fairly confident” that the appropriate steps to “revamp and strengthen” the charter will be taken.
As a bishop, however, there are responsibilities that go along with his roles as a spiritual father and shepherd to a diocese, he told CNA. He cannot “just sit in a corner and go and pray” - during times of controversy and upheaval, he has to prioritize what he does first.
“I'm a shepherd. I've got sheep,” he said.
“And sheep are bleeding, and getting slaughtered, and wolves are attacking. We can't be worried about what color we're going to paint the barn...Deal with the most important (things) first, then get others to figure out the barn.”
Vatican City, Nov 13, 2018 / 09:35 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis Tuesday appointed Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta as adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
According to a Nov. 13 announcement, Scicluna, 59, will take up the Vatican position while remaining head of the Archdiocese of Malta, which he has led since February 2015.
The archbishop’s appointment as adjunct secretary makes him joint second in command of the CDF with secretary Archbishop Giacomo Morandi under prefect Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer. Among the congregation’s leaders is also under-secretary Fr. Matteo Visioli.
Scicluna, who served as the Vatican’s sexual abuse prosecutor before becoming a bishop in 2012, has continued to have a high-profile role in addressing clerical sexual abuse. He was appointed by Pope Francis to conduct an an apostolic visitation of the Chilean abuse crisis earlier this year.
He also helped establish the Church’s first response to the 2002 sexual abuse crisis, and his work in the field is considered landmark.
Scicluna’s nomination to a high position within the CDF takes place in advance of a Vatican meeting on child protection, which will bring together bishops from all over the world.
According to comments from Scicluna in October, the February meeting on abuse is the time to address “not just the issue of prevention but also of accountability” and the meeting will provide an opportunity to discuss how to tackle issues “on the ground.”
He told CNA in September that the CDF asked bishops’ conferences to prepare guidelines countering abuse in 2001, and most have complied. He added that all existing guidelines have been now screened by the Vatican.
The February 2019 meeting of bishops is “a response to people’s expectation that we move from documents to actions,” he said.
It is not certain which Vatican department will be responsible for the organization of the meeting on abuse prevention, though it will likely fall to the CDF.
In January 2015, Scicluna was made a member of a special doctrinal board established within the CDF in 2014 to handle appeals filed by clergy accused of abuse.
Scicluna also served for 10 years, until 2012, as the promoter of justice of the CDF under then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. From 1995-2002 he was deputy promoter of justice in the Apostolic Signatura.
The archbishop was born in Toronto to Maltese parents in 1959, though his family returned to Malta before his first birthday.
Before the start of his Vatican career, Scicluna was defender of the bond and promoter of justice at the Metropolitan Court of Malta, and a professor of pastoral theology and canon law at Malta’s archdiocesan seminary.
Vatican City, Nov 13, 2018 / 04:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis will head to two cities in Morocco March 30-31, 2019, the Vatican announced Tuesday.
Pope Francis will visit the cities of Rabat and Casablanca, a Nov. 13 message stated. The schedule of the trip is not yet published.
According to papal spokesman Greg Burke, the visit takes place at the invitation of King Mohammed VI of Morocco and the Catholic bishops.
Francis will be the second pope to visit the country, after St. Pope John Paul II went in 1985 as the first pope to visit a Muslim country at the invitation of the state.
Morocco, which is located on the north-west side of Africa, is a majority Muslim country. The total population, as of 2014, was around 29 million. There were an estimated 21,000 Catholics in the country in that year; just .1 percent of the population.
The country has two archdioceses; one in Ribat, the country’s capital city, and one based in Tanger.
After Pope Francis received an invitation to visit the country from King Mohammed earlier this year, there had been rumors about whether he would attend a United Nations gathering in December for the adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration.
Now that the trip has been announced for March, what the pope’s agenda in Morocco will be has not yet been revealed, though it will likely focus on Christian-Muslim relations and migration.
The visit to Morocco falls just two months after the pope will travel to Panama Jan. 23-27, 2019, the only other Vatican confirmed apostolic visit in the upcoming year, though there have been comments from heads of state and bishops that say Francis may also be traveling to Romania and to Mozambique.
He has also expressed the desire to visit Japan. Cardinal Désiré Tsarahazana said at a Vatican press briefing Oct. 9 that the pope will visit Madagascar in 2019. Holy See spokesperson Greg Burke said at the time he could not confirm the trip, but that the possibility was “well under study.”
Sacramento, Calif., Nov 13, 2018 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As wildfires continue to burn throughout the state of California, local Catholic Charities agencies are working with agencies in neighboring states to coordinate relief.
The so-called Camp Fire in Northern California has claimed 29 lives in the town of Paradise, and has destroyed nearly 6,500 homes, making it the most destructive wildfire in the state’s history. The fire is only a quarter contained, according to the New York Times, and the local sheriff announced Sunday that nearly 230 people were still missing.
At the same time, the Woolsey Fire west of Los Angeles has destroyed an estimated 370 structures and claimed two lives so far.
Matt Vaughan, director of communications for Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada (CCNN), told CNA that the agency is working to gather supplies for survivors of the fires. CCNN is headquartered in Reno, Nevada, which is approximately 160 miles east of Chico, California, one of the largest cities affected by the Camp Fire.
“We're trying to collect donations, which we will then send over, most likely to Chico,” Vaughan said.
“It sounds like they're asking for a lot of the donations to be sent there right now, just because some of the other areas are affected [by the fire]...We have been in contact with Catholic Charities in Sacramento,” he said.
“We're just really focusing on getting the really crucial, needed items over to the affected victims over there at this point...warm clothes, shoes, paper products, blankets and coats are among the most needed items right now. And that's really what we're asking the community to provide.”
Yvette Myers, Chief Program Officer for CCNN, said she hopes to hear from the agency in Sacramento soon, as well as from the national branch of Catholic Charities, about the best way to deliver supplies.
She said they are working jointly with a local organization to send trucks full of supplies to California, starting Nov. 16, and that they won’t know how big the truck will need to be until they begin receiving donations.
“We're waiting to hear back from Sacramento...about if it's a possibility that we bring trucks to them, where they're going to go. So it's kind of a waiting game right at the moment,” Meyers said.
“We're actually waiting to hear back from [Catholic Charities USA]...about what the plan is.”
“Their greatest needs are clothing, hygiene, blankets, coats; they can use anything, but that's what they're really asking for right now,” she said.
According to the Diocese of Reno, items that are donated that are not accepted by the donation centers in California will go to local St. Vincent’s Thrift Stores in Nevada.
Harrisburg, Pa., Nov 12, 2018 / 05:17 pm (CNA).- Seven of the eight Roman Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania will create compensation funds for victims of clergy sex abuse, following a grand jury inquiry into abuse of minors by Catholic priests in the state.
“The damage done to innocent young people and their families by sexual abuse in the past is profound. It can’t be erased by apologies, no matter how sincere. And money can’t buy back a wounded person’s wholeness,” Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia said in a Nov. 8 column for CatholicPhilly.com.
“But what compensation can do is acknowledge the evil done and meaningfully assist survivors as they work to find greater peace in their lives,” he said.
The archdiocese-funded reparations effort will pay “the amounts that independent claims administrators deem appropriate,” he said.
According to Chaput, the program is about more than compensation of victims.
“It’s also about apologizing to victims, recognizing the harm the Church has done, and continuing the critical work to ensure abuse is prevented,” he said. “I deeply regret the pain that so many victims carry from the experience of sex abuse. I hope this program will bring them a measure of peace.”
In August a Pennsylvania grand jury report claimed to have identified more than 1,000 victims of 300 credibly accused priests. It presented a devastating portrait of efforts by Church authorities to ignore, obscure, or cover up allegations – either to protect accused priests or to spare the Church scandal.
The accusations concerned incidents that are often decades old. Most of the priests accused of abuse have died.
Some bishops named in the report for alleged cover-up of abuse have had their names scrubbed from facilities that were named for them.
The Pittsburgh diocese, headed by Bishop David Zubik, also announced a new fund.
“It is my hope that a program to compensate survivors of abuse by clergy will continue to aid in their healing and the healing of the Church, the Body of Christ,” Zubik said Nov. 8
“The survivors’ compensation program we are working to establish will be designed to create the best opportunity for recovery and healing to survivors,” he added. “They continue to suffer as a result of their abuse and this program will help to provide for their ongoing needs.”
The fund aims to compensate survivors who would otherwise be barred by the statute of limitations from seeking a civil settlement. The Pittsburgh diocese compared it to its previous program launched in 2007. It said no funds will come from Catholic Charities, parishes, schools, donor-designated contributions or the campaign “Our Campaign for The Church Alive!” that is intended for specific capital and endowment needs.
“While sources for funding needed to establish the program are still being settled upon, the program will ensure transparency and the disclosure of all allegations to law enforcement,” the Pittsburgh diocese said.
Zubik will hold listening sessions around the diocese to share details of the program and details about “other actions that will support the healing of survivors and the protection of children in the Church.”
The Pittsburgh diocese is undergoing a “comprehensive review” of practices related to children and young people by Shay Bilchik, an expert on child sex abuse prevention and prosecution.
Bilchik is a former Florida state prosecutor, and administered the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention at the U.S. Department of Justice.
“The Survivors Compensation Fund will address the needs of victims regardless of the time frames currently in place for the statute of limitations for civil law suits. This expedited process will enable eligible victims of minor sexual abuse to be heard and compensated,” the Greensburg diocese said in its Nov. 8 announcement.
Diocesan, not parish assets, will finance the fund. Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros of the Law Offices of Kenneth R. Feinberg, PC, will be the independent fund administrators.
Feinberg and Camille Biros will administer the Philadelphia archdiocese’s compensation fund as well.
Chaput said that the total number of claims and funding required cannot yet be known, but he said the financial commitment will be “significant.” Existing archdiocesan assets will provide initial funding, but additional funding will need to come from borrowing and the sale of archdiocesan properties. It is not yet determined which properties will be sold.
In the last three years, Philadelphia archdiocese finances have returned to the break-even point, after a period of severe deficit spending and underfunding financial obligations.
Archbishop Chaput emphasized that the fund is “entirely independent of the archdiocese” and “confidential.”
“The program is designed to help survivors come forward in an atmosphere where they are secure and respected, without the uncertainty, conflict, and stress of litigation,” Chaput said.
The independent oversight committee for the Philadelphia archdiocese’s reparations fund includes former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, who will chair the committee. He will be joined by Kelley Hodge, former interim District Attorney for the City and County of Philadelphia, and Lawrence F. Stengel, a retired federal district court judge.
While Catholic leaders stressed the independence of how the reparations would be determined, it still drew criticism from abuse victims and their advocates.
“If I do something wrong, I don’t make my own punishment up,” Martha McHale, a clergy sex-abuse victim from Reading, Pa. told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Neither should they.”
Victims who accept payments from the funds must give up their right to sue if the state legislature temporarily lifts the statute of limitations on sex abuse lawsuits. In the last legislative session, a bill that would open a two-year window allowing abuse victims to file lawsuits concerning decades-old claims passed the House of Representatives but the Senate did not hold a final vote.
“It’s a brilliant political move by the bishops,” said Benjamin Andreozzi, a lawyer for several clergy sex abuse victims in Pennsylvania.
“This is exactly what happened in New York. The dioceses there probably resolved 90 percent of their outstanding civil claims for pennies on the dollar,” Andreozzi told the Inquirer, comparing the fund to those established in the New York archdiocese.
Feinberg told the Inquirer that victim compensation funds are more cost-effective and result in quicker compensation for victims, compared to lengthy litigation. He cited the three years to reach a settlement following the 2015 bankruptcy of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.
State Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Berks, who was abused by a priest as a teen, is the chief backer of the Pennsylvania legislation and plans to bring it up for consideration when the next legislative session begins in January.
While he said compensation, funds are a positive step, he said retroactive lawsuits should be an option for sex abuse victims, the public radio station WITF reports.
The only Roman Catholic diocese in the state not to announce a new fund, Altoona-Johnstown, cited its victim assistance program started in 1999. That fund has provided compensation and counseling to nearly 300 individuals, including $2.8 million for counseling. It said a newly created youth protection office will aid in recognizing, responding to, and reporting suspected sex abuse of minors.
The sex abuse of young men aged 18 and older has also become a focus in 2018. The allegation of credible sex abuse of a minor against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick prompted former seminarians to come forward saying he had sexually abused them as adults.
Belfast, Northern Ireland, Nov 12, 2018 / 04:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Irish Protestants and Catholics should see the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day as an opportunity to build peace and reconciliation, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Ireland said at an interreligious memorial service on Sunday.
The service, held at St. Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast, was attended by Dean of Belfast the Very Reverend Stephen Forde of the Church of Ireland, and several other religious and political leaders. Other services were held simultaneously throughout the country to mark 100 years since the end of World War I.
“The brave people we are remembering are calling us to recognize their shared suffering by building a better future where difference is accepted and respected,” Martin said.
“...it is difficult for any of us to imagine the thoughts and feelings of the young men on the battlefields of the First World War who... in the darkness, prayed for home, for family, for peace.”
But one way to honor their memory is to remember their shared suffering and sacrifice as something that unites, rather than divides, Protestants and Catholics, he said.
“Sadly, because of the cruel twists and tensions of our history of conflict, the fact that Irish Catholics and Protestants fought and died, side by side, was neglected for too long – and perhaps conveniently – by all sides, both north and south of the border,” he said.
“People preferred to cling on to a history of difference and separation, rather than recognise and embrace our shared story of common suffering.”
Religious disputes have long been part of the history of the majority-Catholic Republic of Ireland, which gained its independence from Britain in 1916, and Northern Ireland, which is predominantly Protestant and a part of the United Kingdom.
In his address, Martin recalled a peace pledge he and other religious leaders had made earlier in the year at another World War I memorial in Belgium: “...as Protestants and Catholics, we apologise for the terrible deeds we have done to each other and ask forgiveness …we appeal to all people in Ireland to help build a peaceful and tolerant society …we affirm that a fitting tribute to the principles for which men and women from the Island of Ireland died in both World Wars would be permanent peace.”
“Gathered here this afternoon, in Belfast, let us renew that peace pledge, together, in our hearts,” Martin said. About 35,000 of 210,000 Irishmen who served in British forces in World War I died in battle.
Remembering the dead, “to honor and pray for them – especially during the month of November – is important to the practice of my faith,” Martin said.
“In recent years I have grown to understand more fully that, whilst we may remember in different ways, and whilst our forebears had differing and often conflicting approaches to the war, what unites us now in their memory is so much greater than anything that is talked up to divide us.”
“Peace is not merely ‘ceasefire’ or the absence of violence and war,” Martin said, but “an ongoing work of reconciliation, justice and hope: it means coming out of our own trenches; building bridges, not parapets; ‘beating swords into ploughshares, spears into pruning hooks,’” he said, quoting the book of Isaiah.
“Jesus said, ‘Love one another as I have loved you (John 15).’ Peace is the fruit of that love which urges us to uphold the value and dignity of every human life and to be passionate about respecting others, especially those who are poor or marginalised,” he said.
“Our hope remains for a lasting peace on the island of Ireland. May Christ, the Prince of Peace, help us make that hope a reality for the youth of today and tomorrow. Amen.”
Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2018 / 04:10 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In the afternoon of the first full day of the US bishops' autumn general assembly, two speakers pleaded with the bishops to listen deeply to abuse victims and to lay experts in the Church about how to move forward.
Christina Lamas, Executive Director of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, told the bishops they must not ignore the pain of the victims of clergy sex abuse.
Many young people, she said, “have been hurt twice by the Church,” first when they were abused by a cleric, and then again when they were ignored by Church leadership after the abuse.
“We need words of compassion when speaking about those disconnected from the Church, to view them as sisters and brothers, not as prize objects,” Lamas said.
“We need bishops to stop seeing conspiracy and malice, instead we look for our bishops and those who work with them to assume the good” on the part of those who come forward, she added.
While the Vatican has ordered the U.S. bishops conference not to vote on proposals aimed at sex abuse reforms until after a meeting of the world’s bishop conference presidents in February, the subject has still featured prominently at the meeting of U.S. bishops, which is being held in Baltimore Nov. 12-14.
Lamas, who spoke during a Monday afternoon session, also called the bishops to examine and root out the causes of sexual abuse.
“From you our bishops, we need you to address the root of the problem – abuse of power. We need soul-searching about clericalism and its roots,” she said.
There have been “glimmers of hope,” Lamas said, noting that some bishops have opened investigations, created review boards, and held listening sessions in their dioceses.
Young people are also now being taught “not to keep secrets, and that no person is above question or above the law,” she said.
Lamas asked the bishops to “walk with” the laity at this time, “rather than ignore us. You are not spiritual fathers of only the clergy” but of all, she said.
Following a period of prayer and reflection, Sr. Teresa Maya, CCVI of San Antonio and past president of Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) addressed the bishops, expressing her disappointment at the scandals and urging them to learn from some of the lessons that women religious have learned through their own times of crisis.
“I accepted your courageous invitation (to speak at the conference) because of my deep love for the Church,” she said, although she said she had hoped a snowstorm might have cancelled the whole event.
While she loves the Church, Maya said she has found it “painful” in recent months to recite the words of the Creed: “One, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.”
Maya said she was tempted to stop saying that part of the Creed “until something concrete happened. Then I realized this was my Church and wondered what was mine to do.”
She said she was recently asked by a friend why Catholics should stay in the Church after all of the scandals, and Maya said after a long silence, she responded: “We stay because of Jesus Christ.”
“How do we return to (Christ) for mercy and reconciliation, for the grit to do what is our to do?” she asked the bishops.
She said she prayed that the bishops would have a “deep capacity” to listen to the survivors of clerical abuse, to hear their anger and their pain.
The bishops are entrusted with the task of being the “phsycians and healers” of the Church, but “the best physicians are first good listeners,” she said.
Maya then offered the bishops three ways they could learn from orders of women religious, who have gone through their own trials and crises, and who now face sharply declining numbers and aging populations.
The bishops must face the scandals together, with a listening and contemplative heart, and must be willing to root out anything that goes against discipleship with Christ, she said.
“You are called to renewed spiritual depth,” which will enable the bishops to discern the good spirits from the bad, she said.
She urged the bishops to renewed communion among themselves, and to have the willingness to listen to other bishops who have put policies and procedures in place that have actually worked to help bring healing and reconciliation to survivors of abuse.
“You should not expect the Vatican to resolve what is yours to resolve,” she said. “The Vatican doesn’t have the knowledge, resources and gifts that you do. You can be models for the rest of the world. I urge you to seize this opportunity.”
Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2018 / 04:09 pm (CNA).- During a holy hour Monday morning, two survivors of clerical sexual abuse spoke to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops about their experiences, and their hopes for the future of the Church.
One survivor, Luis Torres, asked the bishops to make changes to ecclesial policies and culture that might ensure that sexual abuse or coercion by anyone in the Church, including bishops, is put to an end.
"I ask,” he pled, “that you inspire me and our community to faith and hope through your courage and your action, which is needed right now. Not in 3 months. Not in 6 months. Yesterday.”
The bishops had intended to take action at their fall meeting this week, voting on two policies they hoped would address the Church’s sexual abuse crisis: a code of conduct for bishops, and the creation of a lay-led panel to investigate claims of misconduct or negligence by bishops. Those policies were not without critics, but it seemed clear that the bishops, and conference administrators, viewed them as a necessary means of showing their commitment to reform.
But as the meeting began, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the USCCB, announced that the Holy See had insisted that the bishops not vote on their own proposals, and instead wait until after a February meeting at the Vatican of the heads of bishops’ conferences from around the world.
The announcement seemed to shock almost everyone in the room, with the notable exception of Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, who rose immediately to say that “it is clear the the Holy See is taking the abuse crisis seriously.”
Cupich suggested that the bishops take non-binding referenda votes on the policy proposals, to give themselves a sense of their own sentiments, and that they schedule a meeting for March at which the bishops could vote on new proposals, if appropriate. DiNardo said that the bishops could discuss that idea on Tuesday, when the meeting’s business is scheduled to get underway.
The bishops will have a great deal to discuss as the business portion of their meeting begins. Indeed, in the hallways and lobby of the conference hotel, they are already discussing what to do. Most are also wondering what exactly happened- how the Vatican decided to put their plans on ice, and why that decision was handed down at the very last minute.
At a 12:30 press conference, DiNardo told reporters that the decision was communicated via a letter from the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops. USCCB officials later said that the letter might not be released to the public, citing ecclesiastical protocol. But DiNardo’s announcement has raised questions about how the decision was made at the congregation, and about what role might have been played in the decision by the two Americans who serve on it, Cardinals Blase Cupich and Donald Wuerl.
Cupich, some observers have noted, seemed prepared with comprehensive thoughts on the matter while most bishops, including DiNardo, seemed still to be processing the news.
Sources close to Wuerl have given CNA conflicting reports. One source close to the cardinal told CNA that he did not believe Wuerl had been involved in the decision. But another Washington source told CNA that Wuerl had advance notice of the decision from Rome.
Both cardinals will now face questions from their American peers about what involvement they had in the decision and what, if anything, they did to push back against it.
Why exactly did Rome decide to spike the policies? There are several theories circulating among the U.S. bishops and media observers.
In addition to their apparent desire for dialogue among global Catholic leaders before norms have passed, some observers have noted that the Vatican expressed reservations about some canonical aspects of the bishops’ proposals.
But USCCB sources have told CNA that the bishops’ conference consulted about the documents with Vatican departments in the lead-up to this week’s meeting, and that those concerns were not raised. And others have asked why the Vatican would not have permitted the bishops to vote on the documents, and then require amendments during a “recognitio” phase, in which the Holy See would either approve USCCB policies or make suggestions for their amendment, before they could take effect.
In 2002, policies on child and youth protection were debated and approved by the U.S. bishops before being sent to Rome. They were returned to the conference with amendments and notes which were then incorporated into the norms and adopted by the bishops. Many expected a similar scenario to play out in 2018. Instead the process has been put on ice.
It is certainly true that the draft proposal for the lay-led investigative raised a number of canonical questions. Several bishops arrived in Baltimore ready to debate the problems they perceived in the text. But it is not clear why the Congregation for Bishops decided to intervene to prevent that debate from taking place.
Even more puzzling is Rome’s decision to prevent a vote on the proposed Standards of Episcopal Conduct. The draft text of this document, circulated with the proposal for the independent commission, contained no clear canonical novelties beyond a reference to the independent commission itself.
Several officials who spoke to CNA about Rome’s intervention told CNA that while the Vatican was known to be concerned about the proposed independent commission, it was especially surprising that the Vatican’s veto-in-advance included the draft standards for episcopal conduct.
Asking the bishops to solemnly promise not to lead a sexual “double life” and to honor basic obligations of the clerical state seemed hardly controversial; most criticism of the code of conduct has been that it was insufficiently demanding. By spiking the document, the Congregation for Bishops seems to be discouraging the bishops from even having a discussion about their own behavior, or a promise to reform it.
Many of the bishops in Baltimore told CNA that they are angry at what they see as an attempt to stop them debating the sexual abuse crisis at all, and confused about the reasons for it. Already frustrated that their request for an Apostolic Visitation into the McCarrick scandal was denied, several bishops are asking why the Congregation for Bishops seems now to be discouraging them from even talking about the elephant in the conference hall.
What the U.S. bishops can do now is unclear. They will likely still discuss the proposals on their agenda, and some bishops have told CNA they expect to take a non-binding vote on them before the meeting concludes.
But several bishops have suggested to CNA that the American bishops might also draft a strong statement of concern, intended to express their solidarity with victims and their understanding of the urgent need for concrete action. Bishops are not usually comfortable signaling a rift between themselves and Rome, but, as one bishop told CNA today, a rift was formally announced by DiNardo himself.
Of principal concern to many bishops is that they take action in order to convey to Catholics that they find sexual abuse and coercion intolerable, and that they will not abide the presence of wolves in their midst. Bishops know they will need to return to their dioceses and explain what has happened. They know they will have to explain the Vatican’s decision to their priests, many of whom are hoping for reform. And they know that they have to explain to the Department of Justice and to state attorneys general, who are investigating them, that they are trying to address this problem in a serious way.
After a curveball almost no one saw coming, the bishops know they are short on explanations. The mood at the bishops’ conference is tense.
Some have suggested that the bishops could simply pass their agenda items as planned, defying Rome’s directive. But such a decision would be a refusal to comply with the pope’s own curia, and seems to many to be dangerously close to an act of schism. The bishops want to be obedient to the pope. But they also want to able to address the sexual abuse crisis.
To convince American Catholics that the Church is serious about addressing the abuse crisis, they seem to have no choice but to continue to express serious dissatisfaction with Rome’s directive, even while expressing their obligation to obey it.
There is, however, one improbable possibility the bishops could consider. The episcopal conference is not permitted to vote on their agenda items. But the bishops could try another procedural move: they could ask Rome’s permission to convoke a plenary council on the sexual abuse crisis in America- a kind of formal assembly of American bishops, significantly more powerful than the episcopal conference, and empowered not only to make laws, but also endowed with the executive authority to initiate a comprehensive investigation into the McCarrick scandal and those bishops who enabled it.
The last plenary council in the United States took place in 1884. The Vatican would almost certainly deny a USCCB petition for one. But there could be hardly any stronger expressions of an American commitment to American solutions to this problem than the petition itself.
It is unlikely the bishops will petition for a plenary council. But it is likely that they will raise their voices in frustration with Rome’s decision, and want to know how and why the Congregation for Bishops made the decision that it did. And American Catholics will likely raise their voices even louder.
While many of the bishops are discouraged, and left to guess at the motives and intentions behind Rome’s surprise interventions, one thing is clear: they have no intention of changing the subject.
Singapore, Nov 12, 2018 / 03:23 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of Singapore has introduced a new policy to ensure couples are taking the time they need to properly prepare for marriage.
Catholics looking to getting married in any of the archdiocese’s 32 churches have to book their wedding date at least one year in advance, according to Catholic News.
Previously, the couples only had to notify the church six months before the wedding. Archbishop William Chye of Singapore made the decision in October after discussing the move with the archdiocese’s priests.
Couples must still undergo the same marriage preparatory programs, including a marriage course and a meeting with the priest who will preside over the wedding.
A Catholic spokesperson for the archdiocese told Strait Times that the new policy emphasizes the importance of the commitment of matrimony and helps Catholics prepare for it.
“In response to the feedback and to help our fellow Catholics prepare for such a major commitment in their lives, the Archbishop, in consultation with his Senate of Priests, is looking to refine the recommended policies presently in place,” he said.
“It marks the beginning of a journey that the Church and the couple take together to prepare the couple for their commitment to each other,” he added.
Numerous other Christian dominations in Singapore have similar requirements, which may range from six to nine months prior to the wedding day.
Daniel Seah is an engaged Catholic in Singapore who plans to get married in 2020. He told Straight Times that he was happy with the new policy.
“In my opinion, the divorce rate is quite high and I think the Church is looking at ways to help couples discern deeper if this is the right person for them before they walk down the aisle,” he said.
“Even if you book a hotel, you may also need to book one year in advance but people don't grumble about that.”
St. Louis, Mo., Nov 12, 2018 / 03:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The bishops of Missouri released a letter Monday expressing support for proposals meant to help address the sexual abuse crisis in the Church, shortly after the Holy See directed that the proposals not be voted on at the US bishops' general assembly this week.
“We must keep at the forefront the survivors of the horrendous evil that was perpetrated against children, minors, and seminarians, who suffered greatly and whose faith in the Church, in many cases, has been destroyed,” the Missouri bishops wrote.
“A culture of silence and cover-up by the hierarchy has brought the Church to this moment of crisis.”
The bishops released the letter Nov. 12. It was dated Oct. 6 and was addressed to Bishop Timothy Doherty of Lafayette in Indiana, chairman of the US bishops' Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People. An enclosed statement was also released.
Earlier in the day, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the US bishops' conference, had announced that the the American bishops would not yet be voting on two of the proposals, at the instructions of the Congregation for Bishops.
These items include a new code of conduct for bishops, and the creation of a lay-led body to investigate bishops accused of misconduct.
In their letter, the Missouri bishops wrote that they hoped their statement could help to provide direction for the fall general assembly, taking place in Baltimore Nov. 12-14.
While supporting the action items which were to have been voted on, the Missouri bishop had said, “we fear these measures will not be enough in either substance or timeliness to meet the demands that this pastoral crisis presents.”
“We must pay attention to that which threatens our communion with one another. Transparency, accountability, and genuine reform in the way in which the Church handles issues of abuse of power by the hierarchy are required,” they wrote.
In the letter the bishops expressed support for the establishment of a third-party hotline for complaints of sexual abuse by a bishop; the development of policies to restrict bishops who have been removed or resigned because of allegations; and a full investigation of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, with “competent laity” given access to “appropriate files held by the Holy See” as well as the relevant chanceries.
“We bishops need to publicly renew our commitment to utilizing the charisms of the laity in our exercise of pastoral governance as bishops,” they wrote.
“We cannot solve this crisis on our own. We need the laity to help us.”
McCarrick was able to perpetrate years of sexual abuse against seminarians while operating at the highest level of the Church in the United States. The bishops said many believe “there has been a breach of trust between the Church in the United States and the Holy See over the Archbishop McCarrick scandal and the consequent refusal to take immediate action for those reponsible. This breach of trust is already catastrophic and endagers the very communion of the Church.”
They noted that the Church's credibility “has already been seriously damaged by a persistent silence and inaction over many decades,” and said that the “immediate acceptance of resignations from all hierarchs who voluntarily resign because of their complicit action or inaction in the Archbishop McCarrick scandal would regain credibility and trust.”
“On behalf of our people, we recommend a complete and transparent investigation into Archbishop McCarrick’s advancement in responsibilities and how he continued to function as a Cardinal when his misconduct with seminarians and others was known,” the bishops wrote.
In addition, the bishops endorsed a revision of the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People to include measures to hold bishops accountable.
They also called on all diocese and eparchies, as well as religious institutes, societies of apostolic life, and secular institutes to release all known names of clerics credibly accused of abusing a minor.
Robert Carlson of St. Louis and his auxiliary and Mark Rivituso, W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City, James Johnston of Kansas City-St. Joseph, and Edward Rice of Springfield-Cape Girardeau all signed the letter.
Benin City, Nigeria, Nov 12, 2018 / 02:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Four priests who were abducted in Nigeria's Edo state last week were released Friday night.
The priests were rescued by police operatives Nov. 9. According to The Punch, the captors fled as a rescue team of police from Edo and Delta states approached.
The Nov. 6 kidnapping was originally reported as occurring in neighboring Delta state, and only one of the victims was identified as a priest.
The priests who were taken hostage are Fr. Emmanuel Obadjere of the Diocese of Warri, Fr. Victor Adigboluja of the Diocese of Ijebu-Ode, Fr Anthony Otegbola of the Diocese of Abeokuta, and Fr. Joseph Ediae of the Archdiocese of Benin City.
Fr. Mike Oyanoafoh, chancellor of the Benin City archdiocese, said the priests had been taken to a hospital in Benin City for treatment.
They had been travelling from Orerokpe to Akahia, for an alumni reunion at All Saints major seminary. They were taken from their car somewhere between Abraka and Urhonigbe.
The Warri diocese said it was suspected that the gunmen who abucted the priests were Fulani herders.
It is unclear whether a ransom was paid for the priests' release.
Violence against Christians has significantly increased in Nigeria in recent years, with the radical Islamist group Boko Haram threatening safety in the north, and smaller violent gangs threatening security in the south.
In recent months, several priests and religious have been kidnapped in southern Nigeria.
One priest was abducted in Edo in April, six women religious in January, and another priest in October 2017.
Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2018 / 01:26 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Two victims of clerical sexual abuse addressed members of the US bishops’ conference Monday and shared how the bishops' action, or inaction, on the abuse crisis has shaped their lives.
Teresa Pitt Green, who identified herself a survivor of childhood sexual abuse by multiple priests, spoke first. She detailed how the abuse she suffered led her to leave the Church, but she has since returned as she believes steps have been taken better to ensure child safety.
“My story is only one story, and my healing is only one healing,” she said Nov. 12. She considers herself to be one of the “lucky ones,” as her family stood by her after she revealed her abuse. Despite this, she said her family was “bruised” by her abuse and suffered deeply as a result.
Abuse victims are portrayed as the “damaged goods of our age,” and often suffer from drug addictions, problems with relationships, and other mental health issues, she said.
Green did, however, offer praise for the work done by the bishops in order to ensure that Catholic environments are safe for children. She noted that while child sexual abuse continues today, it is “very unlikely” that the abuse is occurring in Catholic institutions.
“I’m not saying there’s not enormous improvements, but I’m saying you’ve permitted me to come back to the Church,” she said.
"From the bottom of my heart, I can't thank you enough."
Green said that her heart was “full of forgiveness,” and that her heart was full as she had found her savior in the Lord. Even after doing 12-step programs, reading self-help books, and attending therapy sessions, she found the she still needed a savior.
She was, however, extremely critical of some of the bishops present, saying that “the Lord has cried more tears on his cross because of some decisions that some of you have made.”
“I don’t know how you bear it. My heart breaks. And I will continue to pray for you,” she added.
Luis A. Torres, Jr., a victim of clerical sexual abuse as a teen, spoke after Green. Torres, a native of Brooklyn, is a former altar boy, and said that he “truly experienced God’s love” in his early life. He attended Catholic schools, and that he “was always surrounded by the most wonderful, giving, holy people.”
These people were “deserving of my trust. Except for my abuser.”
The priest who abused him acted in a manner that was “inconsistent with everything I have learned about God.”
While many abuse survivors turn to drugs or other forms of self-medication, Torres instead pursued higher education and law school. He said these accomplishments served as a sort of “armor” against his feelings of pain from being abused.
“Abuse of a child is the closest that you can get to murder and still possibly have a breathing body,” he said. Abuse, especially from a trusted figure, “mortally wound(s) the spirit and soul of that child,” especially if the abuser is a priest.
Torres took a more critical look on the status quo of the Church than Green, saying that he believed that “the heart of the Church is broken, and (the bishops) need to fix this, now.” He was critical at how the Church sometimes views victims of abuse as “money grubbers” or people out to cause trouble.
“We need to do better,” he said, adding that abuse survivors should not be viewed as “adversaries,” “liabilities,” or even “scary.”
The words and actions of the bishop have caused victims harm, he said, and have helped to drive them from the Church. He said that he expected “better” from the bishops, and that he still expects them to behave better.
What the Church needs now, Torres said, was for the bishops to work to inspire Catholics with their action, “which is needed right now,” and not in the coming months.
He reminded the bishops that their initial calling was not to be a CEO or an administrator, or prince, but rather to be a priest. He implored them to “be the priests that you were called to be.”
“Please, act now, be better.”
Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2018 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- The directive not to vote on the proposals which had been expected to form the basis for the response of the Church in the US to the sexual abuse crisis came from the Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said Monday.
The president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops was speaking at the first press conference held at the bishops' autumn General Assembly in Baltimore Nov. 12.
He indicated that the directive came not from Pope Francis, but directly from the Congregation for Bishops.
Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, who spoke at the press conference, told CNA that he did not know whether the American members of the congregation played a role in the decision.
The American members of the Congregation for Bishops are Cardinals Blase Cupich of Chicago, and Donald Wuerl, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington.
A source close to Wuerl told CNA that he did not believe the cardinal had been involved in the decision.
DiNardo had announced the decision earlier in the day to “a visibly surprised conference hall.”
DiNardo said that the Holy See insisted that consideration of a code of conduct for bishops and a lay-led body to investigate bishops accused of misconduct be delayed until the conclusion of a special meeting called by Pope Francis for February.
Coyne told CNA that the bishops would also suspend their vote on establishing a third-party reporting system for complaints about episcopal conduct.
The Congregation for Bishops asked for the delay so that bishops around the world can be “on the same page,” and learning from each other, the bishops said. The importance of further precision in canon law was also raised.
Joining DiNardo and Coyne at the press conference was Bishop Timothy Doherty of Lafayette in Indiana.
Dinardo said he found Rome's decision to be “quizzical,” and suspected the Congregation for Bishops thought the US bishops might be moving too quickly.
“I'm wondering if they could turn the synodality back on us. My first reaction was, this didn't seem so synodical; but maybe the Americans weren't acting so synodically either. But it was quizzical to me, when I saw it.”
DiNardo said the bishops have not lessened their resolve for action, and that they are not pleased by the Holy See's decision. He indicated that they will continue to push for action on the sex abuse crisis: “we're disappointed, because we're moving along on this.”
Speaking to how Catholics can trust their leaders, he asked that they retain faith in the bishops' commitment to reform, watching their efforts. He acknowledged that people have a right to scepticism, but also to hope.
The cardinal said he had proposed an apostolic visitation to deal with the problem, but that Rome had disagreed with that approach.
While acknowledging their disappointment in the decision from Rome, the bishops also spoke of the importance of their own obedience. DiNardo said they were responsible to be attentive to the Holy Father and his congregations, and Bishop Coyne said bishops are by nature collegial, “so when the Holy See asks us to work in collegiality, that's what we do.”
Vatican City, Nov 12, 2018 / 11:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The artwork featured on the Vatican’s postage stamps for Christmas 2018 were painted by a man serving a life-sentence in a Milanese prison.
The two stamp designs, painted by Marcello D’Agata, depict the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Nativity of Christ.
The postage stamps were unveiled by Archbishop Mario Delpini of Milan at a Nov. 9 presentation in the Milan prison and can be purchased at the Vatican City post office. They are available in denominations of 1.15 or 1.10 euro ($1.29, $1.24), which is the postage required to mail directly to Europe and the Mediterranean region.
An Italian journalist had the idea for the Vatican stamps after having followed a philately initiative within the Milan prison for several years.
According to L’Osservatore Romano, a Vatican-supported newspaper, D’Agata was drawn to art from an early age. “I confess that as a child, as soon as a blank paper appeared before me, I never failed to draw on it,” he told the newspaper.
“Of course, they were just scribbles, but I liked it so much, because on those papers I gave shape and color to my emotions and, most of all, to my dreams.”
D’Agata said he had fallen away from artistic expression until a few years ago, when the director of the prison allowed a group of prisoners to take part in a drawing course, which served as a “source of inspiration and the dormant talents came back to life.”
Vatican City, Nov 12, 2018 / 10:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis told a group of scientists Monday to use their knowledge for the benefit of all humanity, especially at the service of those people who are most often disregarded by most of society.
It is not enough to merely follow the principles of ethics, the Church expects from science “a positive service that we can call with Saint Paul VI the ‘charity of knowledge,’” the pope said Nov. 12.
“I would like to stand before you as the advocate of the peoples that receive only rarely and from afar the benefits of vast human knowledge and its achievements,” he continued, “especially in the areas of nutrition, health, education, connectivity, well-being and peace.”
Pope Francis spoke in an audience with participants in the Pontifical Academy of Sciences’ plenary meeting, taking place at the Vatican Nov. 12-14 on the theme “Transformative roles of science in society: From emerging basic science toward solutions for people’s wellbeing.”
Referencing the theme of the academy’s plenary meeting, he praised the academy’s focus on using knowledge to confront the challenges facing modern society, stressing that “the universal rights we proclaim must become reality for all.”
“Science can contribute decisively to this process and to breaking down the barriers that stand in its way,” he said, encouraging scientists to conduct research which benefits all people, “so that the peoples of the earth will be fed, given to drink, healed and educated.”
He also encouraged them to give sound advice to the political and economic spheres “on how to advance with greater certainty towards the common good, for the benefit especially of the poor and those in need, and towards respect for our planet.”
In his speech, Francis outlined a few of the possible fruits of a scientific community focused on a “mission of service.”
One of these fruits is “commitment to a world without nuclear arms,” he said, echoing sentiments of St. Paul VI and St. John Paul II, “that scientists actively cooperate to convince government leaders of the ethical unacceptability of such weaponry, because of the irreparable harm that it causes to humanity and to the planet.”
He urged “the need for disarmament,” which he argued is a topic raised less and less frequently by those in positions of power. “May I be able to thank God, as did Saint John Paul II in his Testament, that in my Pontificate the world was spared the immense tragedy of an atomic war,” he stated.
Pope Francis also noted what he said is a “lack of will and political determination” to end the arms race and wars. More monetary resources could then be put toward renewable energy and programs to ensure water, food, and health for all, he said.
On climate change, he pointed out the influence of human actions and said there is a need for responses aimed at protecting “the health of the planet and its inhabitants,” which is risked by use of fossil fuels and deforestation.
In his address, he also praised the Academy of Sciences’ work combating human trafficking, forced labor, prostitution, and organ trafficking and said he stands at their side “in this battle for humanity.”
“This is the immense panorama that opens up before men and women of science when they take stock of the expectations of peoples,” he said: “expectations animated by trusting hope, but also by anxiety and unrest.”
Baltimore, Md., Nov 12, 2018 / 08:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishops in the United States need to work hard to regain the trust of their flocks and combat a culture of clericalism, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, told those present at the USCCB’s Fall General Assembly in Baltimore, Md.
After acknowledging that the past year has been “challenging and sobering,” Pierre spoke sternly to his brother bishops and told them that they need to accept their responsibility as “spiritual fathers” of their dioceses.
While the Church is “always” in need of renewal, Pierre said that that this task will be impossible without rebuilding the trust of their community. It is a task that demands time, effort sacrifice, and reform on the part of the bishop.
“The only way of reforming the Church is to suffer for her,” he said, and this reform needs to come from the mission of the Church. In creating reform, bishops must show that they are capable of solving problems that are placed before them, “rather than simply delegating them to others.”
Bishops, he sad, have a “special responsibility” to strengthen the faith of others, especially when presented with these challenges.
“The people of God have rightly challenged us to be trustworthy,” he said.
“Pope Francis never ceases to tell us that if we are to begin again, then we should begin again from Jesus Christ, who lightens our lives and helps us to prove that we can be trustworthy.”
Despite admonishing the bishops for betraying the trust of the faithful, he also offered praise for certain aspects of their work.
Pierre voiced approval for the bishops’ efforts in creating sanctions and rules for the protection of children and vulnerable adults. There is, however, always more that can be done, and bishops should not be afraid to “get their hands dirty” and remain vigilant in this work.
“Those of you who have done good work have to be congratulated for your commitment as leaders, and for setting a good example for us all,” he said, noting that one case of clerical sex abuse is one too many.
He also praised the media for their work in reporting the abuse crisis, reminding the bishops not to shoot the messenger, so to speak, when it comes to these stories, regardless of how “painful and humiliating” they may be.
As a way to regain the trust of the faith, bishops need to work on fighting back against a culture that promotes clericalism and one that tolerates the abuse of authority, he said. These sins are not those of the media, nor are they “products of conspiracies,” he said. Rather, they are for the Church to confront head-on.
“These are things we must recognize and fix,” he said, starting from the beginning of the priesthood formation process in the seminaries. Those who are selected for the seminary must be properly screened, and he encouraged the bishops to spend time talking to young people and hearing their concerns.
Bishops “cannot run from the challenges that present and confront us,” he said, but instead need to have “open hearts” and hear the concerns of the faithful.
“Even if things seem dark, do not be discouraged. Have hope. [Christ] is with us, and He accompanies the Church,” he said.