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Pope Francis entrusts those who are suffering to the Virgin Mary

Vatican City, Aug 15, 2018 / 07:53 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On the Feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, Pope Francis entrusted any person who is suffering, in mind or body, to the care of the Mother of God.

Invoking “Mary, Consoler of the afflicted,” the pope entrusted to her “the anguish and torment of those who, in so many parts of the world, suffer in body and spirit.”

“Receive our heavenly Mother for all comfort, courage and serenity,” he said Aug. 15.

Speaking after the recitation of the Angelus for the feast day, he said he was thinking, in particular, of the victims of a bridge collapse in Genoa, Italy, Tuesday, and led those present in praying a ‘Hail Mary’ together.

As of Wednesday afternoon, at least 16 people were injured and 39 confirmed dead, with more missing, after a bridge making up a part of one of Italy’s major highways collapsed in a storm Aug. 14.

According to CNN, Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced Aug. 14 that “structural failure” is the working theory for the cause of the collapse.

“While I entrust the people who have lost their lives to the mercy of God, I express my spiritual closeness to their families, the wounded, the displaced and all those who suffer because of this tragic event,” the pope said.

Before the Angelus, Francis reflected on Mary’s life, noting that she lived even ordinary activities in unity with her son, Jesus Christ.

“The life of the Madonna took place like that of a common woman of her time: she prayed, ran the family and the house, attended synagogue... But every daily action was carried out by her always in total union with Jesus,” he said.

He said her union with Jesus reached its pinnacle on Calvary: “in love, in compassion, and in the suffering of the heart” and for this reason, “God has given her a full participation also in the resurrection of Jesus.”

“Today the Church invites us to contemplate this mystery: it shows us that God wants to save the whole man, soul and body,” he said.

Quoting St. Irenaeus, who said, “the glory of God is the living man, and the life of man is the vision of God,” Francis noted that, one day, at the resurrection of the dead, the bodies of those who have died will be reunited with their souls, as was Mary’s.

“If we have lived this way, in the joyous service of God, which is expressed also in generous service to [our] brothers, our destiny, on the day of the resurrection, will be similar to that of our heavenly Mother,” he said.

The “resurrection of the flesh,” as it is sometimes called, which will happen at Christ’s second coming, is “a cornerstone of our faith,” Francis explained.

“The wonderful reality of the Assumption of Mary manifests and confirms the unity of the human person and reminds us that we are called to serve and glorify God with all our being, soul and body,” he said.

Pope names long-time Vatican diplomat as deputy of Secretariat of State

Vatican City, Aug 15, 2018 / 04:21 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis Wednesday named Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, a member of the Vatican diplomatic corps for over 25 years, the ‘sostituto,’ or ‘substitute,’ of the Secretariat of State.

Apostolic nuncio to Mozambique since 2015, Pena will start in the position of substitute Oct. 15, according to a Vatican statement Aug. 15.

Pena, 58, began diplomatic service to the Holy See on April 1, 1993, and has served in Kenya, Yugoslavia, the United Nations Office in Geneva, and in apostolic nunciatures in South Africa, Honduras, and Mexico. He was nuncio to Pakistan from 2001 to 2014.

Born in Maracaibo, Venezuela, he was ordained a priest in 1985, and made a bishop in 2011. He studied canon law and speaks Spanish, Italian, English, French, Portuguese and Serbo-Croatian.

Pena takes over the position from Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who resigned June 29 in anticipation of beginning his assignment as prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints later this summer.

Becciu, 70, who was elevated to the cardinalate June 28, served in the Secretariat of State, under both Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, beginning in 2011. He will start at the congregation for saints Aug. 31.

It is yet unknown if Pena will join Pope Francis as part of the papal entourage on his trip to Dublin Aug. 25-26.

The Secretariat of State is the central governing office of the Catholic Church and the department of the Roman Curia which works most closely with the pope.

Since the publication of Pastor Bonus, Pope John Paul II's 1988 apostolic constitution which introduced a reform of the Roman Curia, the Secretariat of State has been divided into two sections: the Section for General Affairs and the Section for Relations with States.

The substitute, who must be a bishop, acts as head of the Section for General Affairs, which is responsible for the everyday affairs and service of the pope, including overseeing the facilitation of appointments within the Roman Curia, the duties and activity of representatives of the Holy See, and the concerns of embassies accredited to the Holy See.

Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher is the secretary for Relations with States, often described as the Vatican’s “foreign minister.”

As of November 2017, Pope Francis established a third section of the Secretariat, specifically to oversee the Vatican’s diplomatic corps, stationed around the world.

Archbishop Jan Romeo Pawlowski is at the helm of the third section, called the “Section for Diplomatic Staff.” Previously apostolic nuncio to Gabon, in 2015 Pawlowski was appointed head of the Office for Pontifical Representations, a sort of human resources office within the Secretariat of State.

Benedict XVI Institute At San Quentin

San Francisco, Calif., Aug 15, 2018 / 01:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When the Benedict XVI Institute in San Francisco formed a choir to teach Gregorian chant and sacred music to interested parishes, they landed the most unlikely of first gigs – a concert at San Quentin State Prison.

“God works in his mysterious ways,” Maggie Gallagher, executive director of the institute, told CNA.

The traveling and teaching sacred music choir (schola) from the Benedict XVI Institute put on a concert and sacred music workshop for the inmates in the San Francisco-area prison Aug. 5.

The concert was a hit, Gallagher said, and many of the men flocked around the singers at the end of the concert to talk more about sacred music. Twenty-five inmates signed up to join the prison’s own schola, which will perform at a Traditional Latin Mass celebrated about once a month at the prison.

The Benedict XVI Institute was founded by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco in 2014, with the mission of providing practical resources to help parishes have more beautiful and reverent liturgies, and to promote a Catholic culture in the arts.

“The important thing about our primary mission is that its practical resources, so we’re not a think tank about the liturgy,” Gallagher noted.

While the institute has existed for four years, the traveling, teaching schola only began this March, with the goal of teaching parishes how to use Gregorian chant and sacred music for more beautiful Masses.

“The archbishop kept emphasizing that until we were getting into parishes we were not succeeding,” Gallagher said.

Archbishop Cordileone was also a driving force behind the schola’s gig at San Quentin, a place he goes “fairly regularly” to celebrate Mass with the inmates. While celebrating Mass at the prison over Mother’s Day, Cordileone was approached by the prison’s chaplain, Fr. George Williams, who said he was interested in having the teaching choir come to San Quentin.

On Aug. 5, music director Rebekah Wu and a number of singers performed for and trained the men in chant. The twenty-five men who now form the prison’s schola will officially perform for the first time on Aug. 25, when the Traditional Latin Mass will be celebrated at San Quentin for the first time in three generations.

“This is our brand-new teaching choir and you are our first gig!” Cordileone told the men on Aug. 5, a comment met with “thunderous applause,” Gallagher said.

“I love telling people our first teaching gig is the San Quentin Schola!” Cordileone added.

Gallagher said the concert and formation of the schola had an overwhelmingly positive response from the inmates, some of whom are practiced musicians in their own right.

“They have a number of talented musicians with good voices, and as the archbishop said, they like to sing and they worship well,” she said.

"One young man told me that he felt the Holy Spirit buzzing in his soul while he joined the choir in some chanting during the concert. I was especially delighted to see that so many men want to learn Gregorian chant and classical sacred choral music, and help bring the Latin Mass to San Quentin,” Wu said after the concert.

Gallagher said she heard another man tell the choir: “I really don’t want to be in (prison), but if I have to be in here, I want to be in here listening to music like that.”

After the concert, Cordileone told Gallagher that through the music, he saw the inmates “lifted up to God by sacred beauty and given new hope.”

“The Benedict XVI Institute teaching choir is clearly fulfilling an important need in ordinary parishes but also for those at the margins of society,” Cordileone added.

The large turnout and positive response to the concert showed Williams that “the men at San Quentin have a hunger for beauty and prayer. The concert by the Benedict XVI Institute was clearly enjoyed by those who attended. They also appreciated the support and presence of Archbishop Cordileone who has made it a point to visit the prison often.”

The schola has been positively received by a number of different parishes and groups throughout the diocese that have expressed interest in learning sacred music, Gallagher said.

There’s something about Gregorian chant and polyphony “which for many many people just blows them away, just blows them up towards heaven,” Gallagher added.

Gallagher said she has often found that even for the most trained musicians, chant and sacred music is a new and powerful spiritual experience.

She added that sacred music also has an effect that seems to transcend typical ideological boundaries when it comes to the liturgy, and that it especially resonates with younger to middle-aged audiences who are tired of the so-called “liturgy wars.”

“I think this has a reach that gets beyond the normal ideological categories and that a lot of people are hungry for,” Gallagher said.

“We like to say if you’re being brought closer to God by the Mass that you’re experiencing, bless you, we’re not trying to take that away from anyone that’s being well fed. But there is a hunger out there that is not being fed, and it’s exciting to watch the interest (in sacred music and chant) unfold.”

Benedict XVI Institute At San Quentin

San Francisco, Calif., Aug 15, 2018 / 02:08 am (EWTN News/CNA).- When the Benedict XVI Institute in San Francisco formed a choir to teach Gregorian chant and sacred music to interested parishes, they landed the most unlikely of first gigs – a concert at San Quentin State Prison.

The history of the Assumption – and why it's a Holy Day of Obligation

Washington D.C., Aug 15, 2018 / 12:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Today, Catholics around the world mark the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, commemorating the end of her earthly life and assumption into Heaven. But while the feast day is a relatively new one, the history of the holiday – and the mystery behind it – has its roots in the earliest centuries of Christian belief.

“As her earthly life comes to an end, the Assumption helps us to understand more fully not just her life, but it helps us to always focus our gaze to Eternity,” said EWTN Senior Contributor Dr. Matthew Bunson.

“We see in Mary the logic of the Assumption as the culmination of Mary’s life,” he continued. “A Eucharistic requirement for that day is very fitting.”

The dogma of the Assumption of Mary – also called the “Dormition of Mary” in the Eastern Churches – has its roots in the early centuries of the Church. The Catholic Church teaches that when Mary ended her earthly life, God assumed her, body and soul into heaven.

This belief traces its roots back to the earliest years of the Church. While a site outside of Jerusalem was recognized as the tomb of Mary, the earliest Christians maintained that “no one was there,” Bunson said.

According to St. John of Damascus, in the 5th century, at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, Roman Emperor Marcian requested the body of Mary, Mother of God. St. Juvenal, who was Bishop of Jerusalem replied “that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that her tomb, when opened upon the request of St. Thomas, was found empty; wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven,” the saint recorded.

By the 8th century, around the time of Pope Adrian, the Church began to change its terminology, renaming the feast day of the Memorial of Mary to the Assumption of Mary, Bunson noted.  

The belief in the Assumption of Mary was a widely-held tradition, and a frequent meditation in the writings of saints throughout the centuries. However it was not defined officially until the past century. In 1950, Pope Pius XII made an infallible, ex-cathedra statement in the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus officially defining the dogma of the Assumption.

“By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory,” the pope wrote.

Within the decree, which was passed beforehand to dioceses around the world, Pope Pius XII surveys centuries of Christian thought and the writings of a number of saints on the Assumption of Mary.  

“We have throughout the history of the Church an almost universal attestation of this,” Bunson said of the Christian tradition’s testimony to Mary’s Assumption.

“We have this thread that runs throughout the whole of the history of the Church in support of the dogma. That’s significant because it supports the tradition of the Church, but it also supports a coming to a deeper understanding of the teachings of the Church of how we rely upon the reflections of some of the greatest minds of our Church.”

What’s also notable about the dogma, he added, is that it “uses the passive tense,” emphasizing that Mary did not ascend into heaven on her own power, as Christ did, but was raised into heaven by God’s grace.

Today, the Feast of the Assumption is marked as a major feast day and a public holiday in many countries. In most countries, including the United States, it is a Holy Day of Obligation, and Catholics are required to attend Mass. Dr. Bunson explained that on major feast days, it’s important to mark the significance of the feast as especially vital by emphasizing the necessity of celebrating the Eucharist that day.

“What is more fitting than on the Assumption of the Blessed Mother to, once again, focus on her Son, on the Eucharist?” he reflected.

 

This article was originally published on CNA Aug. 15, 2017.

The history of the Assumption – and why it's a Holy Day of Obligation

Washington D.C., Aug 15, 2018 / 01:01 am (EWTN News/CNA).- Today, Catholics around the world mark the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, commemorating the end of her earthly life and assumption into Heaven. But while the feast day is a relatively new one, the history of the holiday – and the mystery behind it – has its roots in the earliest centuries of Christian belief.

Pennsylvania bishops respond to sexual abuse grand jury report

Pittsburgh, Pa., Aug 14, 2018 / 03:12 pm (CNA).- Following the Aug. 14 release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report on sexual abuse allegations in six Catholic dioceses, the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton released separate statements acknowledging failures to protect children, and pledging to make amends.
 
Bishop Ronald W. Gainer of Harrisburg said in a statement that he was “saddened” by the report, “for once again we read that innocent children were the victims of horrific acts committed against them.”
 
Gainer also apologized again to the survivors of child sex abuse and to the public, both for past abuses and for the Church officials who allowed the abuse to occur.
 
Harrisburg’s bishop also sought to reassure the faithful that policies had changed to ensure a safer environment, and that “there is nothing we take more seriously than the protection of those who walk through our doors. [...] The safety and well-being of our children is too important not to take immediate and definitive action.”

Bishop Joseph Bambera of Scranton released a seven-minute video in response to the grand jury report’s findings.

“While this is an uncomfortable and unsettling topic, we must speak openly and frankly about it,” said Bambera.

“I offer my deepest apologies for such behavior and for the consequences of this tragic reality in our Church.”

Bambera described the incidents in the report as a “dark chapter” in the 150-year history of the diocese.

“You have a right to be angry,” he said. “I am angry too,” noting that it was “particularly abhorrent” that abuse is alleged to have occurred in a Church environment. Bambera also outlined the steps his diocese has taken to protect children, including background checks and abuse training.

Bishop Lawrence Persico of Erie, who was the only bishop singled out for praise by the Pennsylvania attorney general, offered in a statement in an apology to the victims of abuse, saying they suffered from “unimaginably cruel behavior” for which they bore no responsibility.

Perscio praised abuse survivors for having the courage to come forward with their stories, while he also acknowledged that there are others who have not yet shared their experiences.

“I humbly offer my sincere apology to each victim who has been violated by anyone affiliated with the Catholic Church. I hope that you can accept it,” said Perscio.

“I know that apologizing is only one step in a very long and complex process of healing.”

Perscio instructed churches within his diocese to be open for a 12-hour period on September 15, the feast of Our Mother of Sorrows. He pledged to stand with the victims of abuse, and said that he was willing to meet with any survivor who wished to do so.  

Bishop Alfred A. Schlert of Allentown issued an apology “for the past sins and crimes committed by some members of the clergy,” as well as “to the survivors of abuse and their loved ones,” and then to the entire diocese, for any doubts or anger the crisis has wrought.

“For the times when those in the Church did not live up to Christ’s call to holiness, and did not do what needed to be done, I apologize,” he said.

He reiterated that his “first priority” as a bishop was the protection of children.

“To those women and men and all those they have spoken for: We hear you. The Church hears you. I hear you,” said Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh in a statement after the report’s release.

Zubik also apologized to victims of clerical abuse, as well as to “any person or family whose trust, faith and well-being has been devastated by men who were ordained to be the image of Christ.” He also said he is willing to meet with any victim to apologize in-person.

Zubik emphasized that “Diocese of Pittsburgh today is not the Church that is described in the Grand Jury Report,” and that “It has not been for a long time.” Data provided by the diocese showed that over 90 percent of abuse incidents occurred prior to 1990, and Zubik explained the steps the diocese has taken to prevent abuse.

Bishop Edward Malesic of Greensburg released a video homily that will be shown at each Mass in the diocese this coming weekend. In it, Malesic apologized to the victims, who were “robbed of their childhoods” by the abuse, noting that some had been “robbed of their faith” as well.

The behavior in the report “cannot be accepted,” he said, and “it is a cause of shame for us.”

Malesic stated he was “truly proud of the victims who came forward to tell their story,” and encouraged others to come forward as well, and for the faithful to be vigilant in reporting suspected abuse.

“To the survivors of sexual abuse in the Church [...] I grieve for you, and I grieve with you.”

In a statement released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB president Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Timothy L. Doherty, chairman of the bishops’ Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, expressed “shame” at the report’s conclusions.

“As a body of bishops, we are shamed by and sorry for the sins and omissions by Catholic priests and Catholic bishops… We pray that all survivors of sexual abuse find healing, comfort and strength in God’s loving presence as the Church pledges to continue to restore trust through accompaniment, communion, accountability and justice.”

The report claims to have identified more than 1,000 victims of 300 credibly accused priests and presents 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.

 

Cardinal Wuerl named in Pennsylvania grand jury report, responds to criticism

Washington D.C., Aug 14, 2018 / 02:30 pm (CNA).- Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., and the former Bishop of Pittsburgh, has been named more than 200 times in a Pennsylvania grand jury report, released Aug. 14, after an 18-month investigation into historic allegations of sexual abuse in six Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses.

The cardinal released a statement in response to the report, underscoring the gravity of the sexual abuse for the Church and the real need for repentance for past failures.

“As I have made clear throughout my more than 30 years as a bishop, the sexual abuse of children by some members of the Catholic Church is a terrible tragedy, and the Church can never express enough our deep sorrow and contrition for the abuse, and for the failure to respond promptly and completely,” the cardinal said. 

In total, 99 priest from Pittsburgh were named in the report, 32 priests were referenced by the grand jury report in relation to Cardinal Wuerl’s time as bishop. Of these, 19 involved new cases or allegations which arose during his 18 years in charge of the diocese, during the years 1988-2006.

Of the 19 cases which arose during Wuerl’s time as bishop, 18 were removed from ministry immediately. The other cases Wuerl addressed in Pittsburgh principally concerned actions and allegations that arose during the reign of his predecessor, Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.

Several of these cases inherited from Cardinal Bevilacqua’s time were subject to the report’s most stringent criticisms.

In one case, an abuser-priest left the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1966, following allegations of abuse. He was allowed to seek ministry in dioceses in California and Nevada. The report says Wuerl authorized him to move from Los Angeles to the diocese of Reno-Las Vegas in 1991, but sources familiar with the Pittsburgh case said that Wuerl was unaware of the 1966 allegations at the time.

A further allegation, concerning past actions by the same priest, was made in 1994 at which time Wuerl immediately informed the dioceses where the priest had been living.

In another case highlighted by the report, Wuerl agreed to a settlement with an abuse victim in his first weeks as bishop of Pittsburgh in 1988. The victim received a total of $900,000 and signed a confidentiality agreement  - such agreements were once common in settlements and have been heavily criticized as a means of silencing victims.

While acknowledging that the report contained specific criticisms of his time in Pittsburgh, Wuerl defended his record of handling sexual abuse allegations.

“While I understand this report may be critical of some of my actions, I believe the report confirms that I acted with diligence, with concern for the victims and to prevent future acts of abuse. I sincerely hope that a just assessment of my actions, past and present, and my continuing commitment to the protection of children will dispel any notions otherwise made by this report.”

The report also specifically criticized Wuerl for maintaining financial support for priests who had been removed from ministry, although providing that support is a canonical obligation for bishops. Many dioceses, including those covered by the report, have found themselves obligated to continue providing minimum benefits and support for priests.

Sources close to the cardinal also point out that the grand jury report does not distinguish between proven incidents of abuse and other allegations, saying that the report presumes that any priest accused of abuse should have been permanently removed from ministry, whether the allegation is proven or not. That assumption, they say, is not consistent with canonical norms on the subject.

As the most senior sitting bishop to be named in the report, and having served for so long as the head of a diocese as prominent as Pittsburgh, it was widely expected that Wuerl would be singled out for special attention by the report, and by the state’s Attorney General, Josh Shapiro.

Perhaps the most eye-catching allegation against Wuerl contained in the more than 1,000 pages released is the use of the phrase “circle of secrecy.” These words, the report claims, “were his own words for the church’s child sex abuse cover up.” This allegation is vehemently denied by both the diocese of Pittsburgh and the cardinal.

In an official response released with the report, the Diocese of Pittsburgh said that the phrase “circle of secrecy” appears in paperwork related to the request of a particular priest to return to ministry, and that it was used to make clear that there could be no “circle of secrecy” about the priest’s past problems. The diocese also says that the handwriting in which the phrase is written cannot be definitively attributed to anyone, including  Wuerl.

Ed McFadden, spokesman for the cardinal, said that “the handwriting does not belong to then-Bishop Wuerl as the writers of the Report mistakenly assumed. Indeed, the cardinal confirmed the handwriting is not his, and confirmed he neither wrote nor used the phrase while serving as Bishop of Pittsburgh. When the Cardinal’s legal counsel informed the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office about this error – prior to the release of the report – the Attorney General and his Senior Deputy refused to acknowledge the mistake and refused to take any steps to correct the dramatic use and misattribution of the phrase in the report.”

McFadden called the report’s attribution of the phrase “another example that in factual ways, large and small, the Attorney General’s office was more concerned with getting this report out than getting it right. Such a focus detracts from the shared goals of protection and healing.”

In a letter sent to the priests of the Washington archdiocese on Aug. 13, Wuerl wrote that he was shocked at having to confront allegations of abuse almost from the beginning of his ministry in Pittsburgh.

“I cannot fully express the dismay and anger I felt, when as a newly installed Bishop of Pittsburgh in 1988, I learned about the abuse some survivors experienced in my diocese,” he said.

The cardinal said that the experience of meeting with victims of abuse “urged me to develop quickly a “zero tolerance” policy for clergy who committed such abuse,” and that he put in place procedures to ensure allegations were addressed “fairly and forthrightly.”

In his written testimony to the grand jury, Wuerl recounted that in his first months as Bishop of Pittsburgh he had to meet with two brothers who had been victims of abuse. Wuerl said he was profoundly affected by the experience and came away with “a permanent resolve that this should never happen again.”

In 1989, Wuerl established a diocesan committee to evaluate policies for responding to abuse allegations. This committee grew to become the Diocesan Review Board, nearly a decade before the Dallas Charter called for every diocese to have such a body.

In his letter to the priests of Washington, he said that he had tried to live up to his own zero-tolerance standards.

“The diocese [of Pittsburgh] investigated all allegations of child sexual abuse during my tenure there and admitted or substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse resulted in appropriate action including the removal of the priest from ministry,” Wuerl wrote to the Washington presbyterate.

What constitutes “appropriate action” is something that has changed in the years since the sexual abuse crisis at the turn of the millennium and the formation of the Dallas Charter by the United States bishops.

As Bishop of Pittsburgh, Wuerl says he implemented of a policy that formally encouraged Catholics making complaints to also report them directly to law enforcement agencies, and sometimes informed civil authorities himself, even against the express wishes of the person making the allegations.

Of the 19 priests whose original allegations were handled by Wuerl, 18 were immediately removed from pastoral assignments and a kept away from any further contact with children.

But, when allegations could not be satisfactorily established,  many of these were given administrative positions in the diocesan chancery, something which would be considered inappropriate under current standards. Unlike the worst examples of earlier abuse cases in dioceses like Boston and Los Angeles, Wuerl is adamant that he never moved an accused or suspected abuser from parish to parish, or left them in parish ministry.

Indeed, from his first year in Pittsburgh, Wuerl acted publicly on issues related to clerical sexual abuse, even in the face of Church opposition.

In 1988, the year he arrived in Pittsburgh, Wuerl removed Fr. Anthony Cipolla from ministry following accusations the priest had molested a teenage boy. Following appeals by Cipolla, the Vatican ordered that the priest be returned to ministry but Wuerl categorically refused, flying to Rome and presenting evidence and arguments in person to the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. Rome eventually reversed its position and upheld Wuerl’s decision.

While cases of suspected abuse since 2002 have been handled according to the USCCB’s “Essential Norms,” the Cipolla case served as an important template in the 1990’s, making it easier for other bishops to remove priests accused of abuse from active ministry. 

Coming hard on the heels of the revelations about Archbishop McCarrick, who preceded Wuerl in Washington, D.C., the cardinal has found himself on the receiving end of very pointed and sustained criticism. Appearing on “CBS This Morning” ahead of the report’s release, he was pointedly asked if he had any intention of resigning. He is likely to face renewed scrutiny and even more difficult questions in the weeks ahead.

Pennsylvania grand jury report details decades of clerical abuse allegations

Pittsburgh, Pa., Aug 14, 2018 / 02:27 pm (CNA).- A redacted grand jury report on clerical sexual abuse in six of Pennsylvania’s Catholic dioceses was released Tuesday, following an 18-month investigation into thousands of alleged instances of abuse spanning several decades.  

The report, detailing allegations made in the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton, was released Aug.14. It reported on evidence of systematic abuse and cover-ups going back seven decades within these dioceses.

About half of Pennsylvania’s nearly 3 million Catholics live within these six dioceses.

The 884-page report was written by 23 grand jurors, who spent some 18 months investigating the six dioceses, examining half a million pages of documents in the process. The FBI assisted with the investigative process.

The report claims to have identified more than 1,000 victims of 300 credibly accused priests and presents 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 report also identified a series of practices present in different ways across the dioceses which together amounted to a “playbook for concealing the truth.”

These include use of phrases like “boundary issues” or ”inappropriate contact” instead of explicitly referring to rape and sexual abuse, assigning priests to investigate their peers, instead of using qualified and objective personnel, and a reliance on psychological assessments and diagnoses based upon the self-reporting of clerics.

Due to laws regarding the statute of limitations, nearly every abuse allegation cannot be criminally prosecuted, although two indictments have been filed. So far, one priest, Fr. John Sweeney, has been convicted of sexually assaulting a student in the early 1990s.

The released report was partially redacted, which Attorney General Josh Shapiro was displeased about. The redactions were due to ongoing appellate litigation.

The grand jury report contains the names of 301 men. Some names were not released due to the aforementioned ongoing court cases. Details of their crimes were also redacted.

The number of victims was estimated to be in the thousands, but the true number was not quantifiable, the report said. The majority of the victims in cases examined by the grand jury were male. The ages of the victims ranged from pre-pubescent to young-adult seminarians.

The offending priests are accused of a variety of crimes, including rape, molestation, and groping. The report states that some of the priests were able to manipulate their victims with alcohol and pornography.

Approximately two-thirds of the accused priests have died. The youngest offender named in the report was born in the 1990s.

Overall, nearly one-third of the accused priests came from the Diocese of Pittsburgh, the highest percentage. The second-highest by number was the Diocese of Scranton, with 55 priests within the diocese, as well as four members of the Society of St. John, identified in the report.

A total of 10 priests from Pittsburgh were identified only as “Pittsburgh Priests #1-10,” as they could not be directly identified. Two priests from Harrisburg were similarly only identified as “Harrisburg Priest #1” and “Harrisburg Priest #2.”  

The Dioceses of Harrisburg and Erie have already released the names of the priests who were credibly accused of sex crimes, and the remaining dioceses pledged to do so upon the release of the grand jury report.

On August 1, Harrisburg released a list of 71 accused priests, deacons, and seminarians, which the diocese admitted was “overinclusive.” The grand jury report contained 45 names from Harrisburg, including three former seminarians.

Erie’s list included 62 people, including laypersons, who were accused of sex crimes over the last 70 years. A total of 41 people from Erie were included in the report, including one former seminarian.

In the Diocese of Allentown, 31 priests were listed, plus two members of the Carmelites, and a lay person employed as a basketball coach at a school in the diocese.

The Diocese of Greensburg had the fewest number of accused priests, with a total of 20 priests identified.

The grand jury report covered all accusations of abuse during the last 70 years, from 1947 until 2017 within the dioceses subject to investigation.  

Data provided by the Dioceses of Greensburg and Pittsburgh showed that most of the alleged abuse occurred during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Greensburg did not list any abuse claims from the 2000s or 2010s.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh saw the number of reported abuse incidents spike during the 1980s, with slightly more than 80 allegations. In the 2000s, there were fewer than 10 reported.

The Dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Harrisburg, and Scranton did not provide hard numbers on the timeline of abuse incidents, but each explained how they have taken steps since the mid-80s to early 90s to implement policies within their dioceses to prevent abuse.

Over the past several decades, the Church in the United States implemented a series of proactive steps intended to create a safer environment for children. These included a tougher screening process for seminarians, trainings for parish workers on how to identify and prevent abuse, and new policies on how a diocese should respond to reported misconduct.

 

 

Denver archbishop reflects on McCarrick abuse crisis

Denver, Colo., Aug 14, 2018 / 01:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver issued a letter to the archdiocese on Monday, offering practical advice on and spiritual insights into the sexual abuse scandal centered on Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

During his annual silent retreat last week, the archbishop said he reflected on the scandal in his prayers. He encouraged the clergy and laity to work toward healing and greater prevention methods.

“Some have felt that the Lord has abandoned the Church,” he said in his Aug. 13 letter. “Personally, I am deeply sorry that both laity and clergy have had to experience this type of betrayal.”

The archbishop challenged the archdiocese to participate in opportunities of healing.

“I am asking every priest in the archdiocese to offer a Mass each month in reparation for the sins committed by cardinals, bishops, priests and deacons, and for all sins committed by clergy and lay people against the commandments of our Lord, as well as to pray for healing for the victims of sin.”

“Too many seminarians, priests and bishops knew of Archbishop McCarrick’s behavior and did not restrain him,” he said. “Due to this, I call on the U.S. bishops’ conference to ask for and allow an independent investigation that includes members of the lay faithful and those clergy who had nothing to do with the matter.”

In June, Pope Francis removed McCarrick from ministry after an allegation he sexually abused a minor almost 50 years ago was ruled credible. In late July he resigned from the College of Cardinals, and the pope ordered him to adopt a life of prayer and penance pending a canonical process. Other allegations of sexual abuse and coercion have since been raised, and have brought to the public eye past legal settlements involving alleged misconduct while head of two New Jersey dioceses.

Archbishop Aquila said the Church’s abuse scandals originate from complacency, and a culture influenced by the sexual revolution.

“We must recognize that complacency about evil and sin is present both in the Church and the world and has led us to where we are today. This culture of complacency among clergy and laity must come to an end!”

“Sadly, too many, both clergy and lay, have listened more to the world than to Christ and the Church when it comes to human sexuality.”

He said the sexual revolution pushed the culture from the proper understanding of the human dignity. The Church has taught on human sexuality for centuries, said the archbishop, noting Catholics have given testimony to “the healing, freedom and joy it brings” in its practice.

The Church, he said, must respond with a greater closeness to Christ and return to the path of grace that highlights the dangers of sin and the fulfilment of truth. He stressed the aspects of the faith which strengthen the Church’s members.

“Charity and truth must always go together. A disciple should never lead someone into sin or condone sin,” he said.

“The Father has given us his son Jesus, the Beatitudes, the Gospels, the truth, and his commandments out of love for us to keep us on the narrow way of love. He is merciful in all that he has given to us.”