Category Archives: NEWS

Much to Lose, Much to Gain

Much to Lose, Much to Gain

The U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation of several Pennsylvania dioceses pertaining to the sexual abuse of minors, including the trafficking of minors across state lines for the purpose of abuse. A U.S. Attorney in New York has subpoenaed the Diocese of Buffalo as part of an investigation of similar offenses. The attorney general for the District of Columbia has opened a civil investigation to see whether the Archdiocese of Washington is liable, as a nonprofit institution, for its handling (or mishandling) of child sexual abuse.

And then there are the investigations that have been announced or are currently being conducted by attorneys general in New York, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, Maryland, New Jersey, Florida, New Mexico, Arkansas, Kentucky, Vermont, Virginia, and – it appears – California.

Notably, Louisiana’s attorney general is not conducting such an investigation on sensible grounds: “[T]here have been no criminal complaints made to the Louisiana Department of Justice. And smearing the Church and its clergy without specific complaints of criminal acts is irresponsible.” Still, Louisiana appears to be the exception that proves the rule.

Some Catholics will see these investigations as welcome news: a necessary, if painful, step towards accountability for bishops and priests who have betrayed their flocks. These investigations might finally bring justice to victims who have, in some cases, waited decades for it. They might also put to rest the nagging suspicion in the minds of so many Catholics who have learned the hard way not to take the bishops’ word that abusers have been properly dealt with.

There’s something to be said for such hopes, but there’s also reason for apprehension.

Even innocent priests and bishops will have reason to be anxious when ambitious prosecutors looking to make a name for themselves (and to prove their toughness to voters) start dredging through the past looking for something, anything, to pin on the Catholic Church. If the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report was any indication, few new cases will result in criminal charges since most abusers are either dead or the statute of limitations has expired, or there’s simply not sufficient evidence to prove the charges.

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When there’s no one to put on trial, no one who can be made to pay, the stink of scandal has a way of clinging to anyone in proximity, guilty or not.

There will be renewed calls in state legislatures to drop or extend statutes of limitations, as we’ve seen already in Pennsylvania. The Church’s resistance to such changes is inexplicable to many, Catholics and not, who can’t understand why the Church would profess concern for victims while at the same time opposing legal changes that might bring justice to the same.

But the cost of litigating large, protracted civil cases creates a huge incentive for dioceses to settle. In recent years, more than a dozen dioceses and archdioceses have filed for bankruptcy over abuse cases. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles alone paid out $660 million in 2007. Earlier this year, the Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul went through bankruptcy and still paid out $210 million.

There’s certainly no injustice in victims being awarded monetary damages for abuse they have suffered, the tens of millions being raked in by their lawyers notwithstanding. But justice has two sides and the fact is that the financial burden for these settlements doesn’t fall on the predator priests or the bishops who covered for them: the brunt of it falls on parishes and diocesan ministries and those who depend on them today and into the future.

Bishops who take seriously the Church’s obligation to seek justice for victims must also think seriously about what justice there is in making the next generation of Catholics pay the price for the sins and crimes of a past generation.

In coming months and years, more than one bishop is going to have to make some very hard choices balancing the demands of justice for victims with his duty to protect the patrimony of his flock. Losing that patrimony – hospitals, schools, charities, food banks, universities, to say nothing of church buildings and a thousand and one other ministries – or seeing it greatly diminished, would not be an occasion for joy. It would be a disaster, both for the Church and those she serves.

Of course, the greatest loss for the Church is not stuff (however conducive to the mission) but souls. Maybe the humiliation and suffering the Catholic Church in the United States is undergoing will bear fruit in the long run. Faith says that’s not too much to hope for. But it’s hard to see how good comes from this unless there is a renewed sense in the Church that what is at stake is the salvation of souls. I wish more bishops, more priests, and a whole lot more lay people were clear on that.

I have wondered many times in recent months how this latest round of scandals will affect the Church. Will Mass attendance decline? (Probably.) Will Millennial flight to the ranks of the “Nones” accelerate? (Maybe.) Will vocations decline? (I don’t know.)

Pope Francis has spoken of his desire for “a Church that is poor and for the poor.” Perhaps that’s where we’re headed in the United States, though not by the road anyone would have imagined. And perhaps, stripped of her worldly goods and cares, the Church in the United States will also look something more like what Pope Benedict XVI had in mind when he mused about the possibility a “smaller, purer” Church.

Perhaps that’s the Church of the New Evangelization we’ve been talking about for so long: not a Church that has prevailed, but one that has been brought low. Perhaps. I don’t know.

I do know that it has happened before.

 

*Image: The Miracles of Saint Francis Xavier by Peter Paul Rubens, 1617-18 [Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna]. Rubens, a devout Catholic, was a master of Baroque art and a champion of the Counter-Reformation.

Stephen P. White

Stephen P. White

Stephen P. White is a fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington.

 

Study finds religious upbringing linked with healthier, happier young adulthood

Study finds religious upbringing linked with healthier, happier young adulthood

LITTLE, GIRL, PRAYING

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Take your kids to church early and often.

A new study released by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggests that praticipation in spiritual practices during childhood can lead to better health and well-being during early adulthood. Researchers found that those who attended religious services or prayed daily throughout their upbringing reported greater positivity and more satisfaction in their lives in their 20s.

Science Magazine has first author Ying Chen remarking on the study results:

“These findings are important for both our understanding of health and our understanding of parenting practices. Many children are raised religiously, and our study shows that this can powerfully affect their health behaviors, mental health, and overall happiness and well-being.”

The study, published the American Journal of Epidemiology, showed subjects were less likely to exhibit depressive symptoms, smoke, use illicit drugs, or have a sexually transmitted infection than people raised with less regular spiritual habits. Previous studies have also suggested a link between religious upbringings and a reduced risk of premature death.

The study drew data from the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHSII) and their children in the Growing Up Today Study (GUTS). These samples included more than 5,000 youths who had been followed for between 8 and 14 years.

The results found that children who were exposed to religous services regularly were 18 percent more likely to report higher happiness during their young adulthood (age 23-30). These people were also 29 percent more likely to volunteer in their communities and 33 percent less likely to use illicit drugs.

The study also found that those who practiced daily prayer or meditation were 16 percent more likely to have a happier outlook in their early adulthood. These people were 30 percent less likely to begin having sex at a young age and 40 percent less likely to contract a sexually transmitted infection.

The study did note that it had limitations, primarily that the sample size was mostly children of white females with relatively high family socioeconomic status, although previous research by senior author Tyler VanderWeele suggests that the effects of early life religious service attendance may be greater for black versus white populations. Another limitation was that the study did not take into account the influences of family and peers.

Overall the lasting effects of regular attendance to religious services and private daily prayer were practically the same. VanderWeele concluded:

“While decisions about religion are not shaped principally by health, for adolescents who already hold religious beliefs, encouraging service attendance and private practices may be meaningful avenues to protect against some of the dangers of adolescence, including depression, substance abuse, and risk taking. In addition, these practices may positively contribute to happiness, volunteering, a greater sense of mission and purpose, and to forgiveness.”

Fr. John Lankeit, rector of Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix, delivered this powerful homily on Aug. 26

Fr. John Lankeit, rector of Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix,

delivered this powerful homily on Aug. 26

Published on Aug 27, 2018

Today’s homily is from Fr. John Lankeit, rector of Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix. Read the Pastoral Letter from Bishop Olmsted and Bishop Nevares Regarding Recent Abuse Scandals: https://dphx.org/pastoral-letter-from… Anyone who has been a victim of abuse is encouraged to call a local law enforcement agency. The Diocese of Phoenix is committed to protecting all young people and will continue to work diligently to keep our young people safe. We are dedicated to providing a safe environment in which every individual is valued and honored as created in the image and likeness of God. We continue to pray for all those who have been harmed by childhood abuse and will remain vigilant to protect the dignity of every person. For additional information about support services for those who have been abused, please contact the Office of Child and Youth Protection at (602) 354-2396 or at https://dphx.org/youth-protection The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix is committed to helping the faithful encounter the living Christ through conversion, communion and solidarity. Led by the Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted, more than 1.1 million Catholics make this diverse, vibrant, and faith-filled diocese their home.

 

 

A Cleansing Fire – Pray for the truth…… Silence no more.

Silence is acceptance we must pray for the truth. We, the people, the church, must pray for truth.  A cleansing fire will ensue……. God is watching over…his sheep.

A Cleansing Fire

As virtually the whole world now knows, Carlo Maria Viganò, the former papal nuncio to the United States, has published a blockbuster 11-page letter, naming names of people involved in sexual abuse and cover-ups in America, and their enablers in Rome, up to the very highest levels, including Pope Francis. He provides dates and details and information on where the relevant documents may be found; speaks of persons who can corroborate his story; and has called on everyone implicated, including the Holy Father (who already knew about McCarrick in 2013 and did nothing, he says), to respect the Church’s Zero Tolerance policy, become an example to others, and resign.

I knew Viganò somewhat in Washington and always liked him; he was the best Vatican ambassador we’ve had in recent years. My esteem had grown, even prior to this letter. At Rome’s Marcia per la Vita (March for Life), bishops do not participate (the Italian bishops’ conference, displaying deeply misplaced faith, thinks it should work through elected politicians, not public demonstrations). At the last one, I saw Cardinal Burke and Bishop Athanasius Schneider; as for other bishops – only Viganò.

Many call him as a man of honesty and integrity. This comes through clearly in passages from his letter such as this:

My conscience requires me also to reveal facts that I have experienced personally, concerning Pope Francis, that have a dramatic significance, which as Bishop, sharing the collegial responsibility of all the bishops for the universal Church, do not allow me to remain silent, and that I state here, ready to reaffirm them under oath by calling on God as my witness.

Defenders of the pope have already raised questions about specific details of the letter. Those will all be settled in good time. But no one has disputed the overall picture, which can be easily confirmed – and probably will be, if there’s any real accountability. The Vatican has so far been silent; Francis declared that he would not say a word for now on the flight back from Dublin to Rome.

Today, I’d intended to give a wrap-up of the papal trip to Ireland (I left as he was arriving because it’s actually easier to follow the pope’s movements via electronic media than in the mob). One Irish journalist was already lamenting before the pope even arrived that “this visit feels too much like a ceremonial procession.” Given the destruction that sexual abuse has caused not only to numerous individuals and families in Ireland, but Chile, America, Honduras, Australia, and many other nations, I suggested weeks ago that the World Meeting on Families should be canceled and a penitential procession, to be repeated annually, should take its place.

That all seems like ages ago now on a planet far away. Just Friday, at the alternative conference on the family sponsored by the Lumen Fidei Institute in Dublin, somewhat to my own surprise, I played the prophet and predicted that more major revelations, in addition to the McCarrick case, were going to erupt within weeks.

And it’s just at the beginning.

We are in for a long string of painful days now, but I believe it will become a “cleansing fire.” Many in the Church hierarchy, especially in Rome, are still under the delusion that they can manage this monstrosity. They can’t.

The American bishops took a while, but finally realized that they had to take at least some action after the McCarrick revelations. In his letter to American victims of abuse – and in remarks during his visit to Ireland – Pope Francis basically expressed his confidence that existing safeguards can deal with the various situations. No need to create special tribunals, etc. This is fantasy and will soon be widely seen as such, to the further detriment of the pope’s credibility if he doesn’t take serious, large steps. As one commentator put it: “Pope to U.S. Church: You’re on your own.”

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Pope Francis already found in Ireland that expressing the Church’s sorrow and shame over failures placates no one. People want action – and answers. To begin with, Viganò says McCarrick was 14thon the list to become archbishop of Washington. Who in Rome moved him up to the top? Cupich and Tobin were not on the lists of bishops submitted to the Vatican for Chicago and Newark. Who promoted them? And why?

We also have to start asking the right questions about the mess as a whole. It wasn’t “the Church” that committed crimes and abused power. Neither was the problem a general “clericalism,” but the acts of specific individuals and others who protected them. Unless, as the anti-Catholics say, the Church is really a criminal syndicate, we want to separate the sheep from the goats now.

According to Viganò, McCarrick and Honduran Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga (himself under suspicion for financial misdealings and widespread scandal at his seminary), were instrumental in the appointments of Cardinals Cupich and Tobin (Newark), as well as Cardinal Farrell to the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life. And in the election of Jorge Bergoglio as pope.

At the very least, every one of those named now – and the list goes one – is under a cloud, given that the Catholic bishops themselves have, sadly, put in question their own right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. How for instance, was Cardinal Tobin just appointed by Pope Francis as one of his personal choices to participate in the upcoming Synod on Youth? Tobin, it should be recalled, said he knew nothing about payouts and settlements over McCarrick in the very diocese he currently heads. Same with Farrell. Same with Cardinal Wuerl, though Viganò provides convincing evidence and says Wuerl is lying shamelessly.

His whole letter is worth studying carefully. One episode I find quite revealing: when Viganò first met the Holy Father as Nuncio, Francis asked him in conversations about McCarrick and Wuerl, what they were like or whether they were good. (Francis also said American bishops must not be “ideologized” [sic] – neither right nor left, but he specifically mentioned “Philadelphia,” i.e., Archbishop Chaput.) Viganò only realized later that Francis was really asking whether he, Viganò, would support McCarrick and Wuerl, despite the damning information he’d just provided.

The pope had never been to America before his trip in 2015, knows little about us, and relies on figures like McCarrick and Maradiaga, and others like Antonio Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa, who have expressed a quite laughable view that traditional Catholics and evangelicals have forged an “ecumenism of hate” in America. Even liberal Catholic outlets were embarrassed by that spectacle. In fact, if you put together the various names in Viganò’s letter, almost all of Francis’ closest advisors lie close to the heart of the problem, not its solution.

If there is a solution now, it’s going to come primarily from lay people and the few bishops – so far – willing to speak candidly and do something. All Catholics everywhere now must firmly keep pressing the Church to come clean. Completely. No one gets a partial or plenary indulgence. No one. Nothing else will do.

As for those who are compromised: it would be wise to be careful what you say and do next. The old days of deception and delay, even in Rome, have ended. People are watching who steps forwards and who doesn’t; who tries to spin obvious facts and hide behind pious platitudes; whether heads roll or it’s all talk.

Much of what was hidden – including any further lies or actions – will become known now. Stonewalling will only make the ultimate day of reckoning even worse.

 

*Image: Catherine of Siena escorted pope Gregory XI at Rome on 17th January 1377 by Giorgio Vasari, c. 1550 [Sala Regia, Apostolic Palace, Vatican]

Robert Royal

Robert Royal

Dr. Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century, published by Ignatius Press. The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West, is now available in paperback from Encounter Books.

 

How blind we are

How ironic this writing below is…just last night we talked about how our faith will be downsized….but only to be reborn to a stronger more blessed Church.

How blind we are

If it is true that a man can see only with his heart, then how blind we are! We have no need of a Church that celebrates the cult of action in political prayers. It is utterly superfluous. It will destroy itself. What will remain is the Church of Jesus Christ, the Church that believes in the God who has become man and promises us life beyond death. Let us go a step farther. From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge—a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning . . . But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. Then, they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.

 

Cleansing the Church of Clerical Sacrilege

It is time for clergy and laity to begin a movement for the purification of the Church. The shameful sexual sins and crimes of clergy—including cardinals, bishops, and priests—can no longer be tolerated. Tolerance is precisely what has allowed these problems to multiply for decades and persist up to today.

As Fr. Thomas Berg recently explained, the issue is sexually active priests and bishops. In the main, the persistent problem is with homosexually active priests.  Fr. Roger Landry argues—rightly, I think—that most priests who persist in infidelity with women eventually leave the priesthood, but priests who cheat on their vocation with men often continue to live a double life. Most of the issues stem from this kind of duplicity. Networks of active homosexual priests have developed: They protect and promote their own and others who will tolerate them. They become a major problem when they insinuate themselves into positions of power (in a seminary, in a chancery or diocese, in a religious order, in the Roman curia)—as occurred in the case of Theodore McCarrick.

The sins here are more grave than adultery or homosexual acts because they besmirch what is holy. Properly speaking, this is sacrilege, the perversion of Holy Orders, and the defilement of a person solemnly and publicly consecrated to God in chastity. The sin is even more serious when a bishop, a seminary formator, or a priest uses the authority of his office—an office instituted by Christ for the sanctification of the faithful—in a perverse way, in the service of shameful and selfish passions. The higher the abuse of authority in the Church, the more grave is the sacrilege. These are not private sins of individual Christians, and the victims suffer more because they are abused not by “private individuals,” but by priests. These crimes dishonor and offend God, and they wound the Church in a unique way.

Focusing on sacrilege is important because it helps us remember that we are dealing with something holy: the holiness of the priesthood, of the episcopacy, and of the Church. We must not give up on this call to holiness. Bishops and priests should be holy, they must pray for it, and with the help of grace, strive for it.  (And some really do become holy—something we should not overlook.) When priests habitually commit mortal sins, they lose their zeal for the gospel, they become numb to the truth of the Eucharist’s holiness, and they water down the doctrines of the faith. This leads to many other infidelities, and to a kind of pastoral despair.

What, then, can be done to fix this problem? We should begin by articulating clearly what remedies are needed. (Getting the bishops and the Vatican to adopt these reforms is another question, but first we need to know what reforms are needed.) Here are five bullet points.

First, we need to investigate the past and have a transparent accounting of the failures.  How were known networks of active homosexual priests (and bishops) allowed to continue?  What structures of accountability were missing?  This investigation won’t fix the future, but it will begin to identify where the biggest problems are.

Second, every diocese and religious order needs to implement an affirmative program to screen out vocations applicants with a history of deep-seated same-sex attraction—and certainly those who have engaged in homosexual activity. Applicants should not be allowed to apply for the seminary unless they are already able to live as habitually chaste single men, without recurring falls into unchastity. Candidates in seminaries who act out sexually should be dismissed. This policy is not homophobic in any way. It is simply non-hypocritical: The Church has to cultivate vocations of men who live and practice what the Church professes.

Third, American bishops should enact, as “particular law,” the canonical norms from the 1917 Code of Canon Law (they were mostly dropped from the current Code of Canon Law when it was revised in 1983) dealing with the sexual acts of clerics (whether homosexual or heterosexual, and whether with minors or with adults). Those provisions made sexual activity by clerics, even with other adults, a canonical crime. The punishments included “being deprived of office, benefice, dignity, responsibility, if they have such, whatsoever, and in more serious cases, they are to be deposed.”

Fourth, there should be an apostolic visitation of all provinces of religious orders, diocesan chanceries, seminaries, the offices of vocation directors, and of the USCCB, to investigate whether they have networks of active homosexual priests, structures of manipulation, or other such misconduct.

Fifth, there needs to be a system for reporting clerical sexual infidelity—even infidelity with “consenting adults”—akin to the system that currently exists for reporting clerical abuse of minors. The reports should not just go to the bishop or religious superior; they need to involve a review board and other lay outsiders.  Allegations should be investigated, using fair and just procedures, and should be concluded with a report of findings recommending canonical charges where warranted. This process needs to be instituted for both religious orders and dioceses alike.

These prescriptions are actually rather straightforward and simple. The hierarchy needs help from laity and investigators from outside the dioceses, religious orders, and seminaries to expose the corruption and begin the process of dismissing the wrongdoers. Let us cleanse the sacrilege, so that the Church will again be holy.

Hand-wringing and pious platitudes won’t fix things. It is time to confront the real problem with courage and sobriety.

Dominic Legge, O.P., is a Dominican priest and a professor of theology at the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.